Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. It can be divided into three main categories, according to the type of skin cells that become cancerous:
- Basal and squamous cell skin cancers – these cancers begin in the outermost layer of the skin called the epidermis; cells are the top of the epidermis are squamous cells and cells at the bottom of this layer are called basal cells. 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas, though it is rare for the cancer to metastasize.
- Melanoma skin cancer – these cancers begin in cells called melanocytes, which are located in the epidermis; these cells make pigment and give the skin its color.
- Lymphoma of the skin – these cancers begin in the lymphocytes of the skin, which are located in the base (subcutis) layer of the skin; these types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma are fairly rare.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
The American Cancer Society estimates that approximately 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are found each year, though many cases likely go unreported. About 76,690 new cases of melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States annually.
Risk factors for both types include:
- Exposure to UV light
- Being male
- Being older
- Having light-colored skin or hair
- Having moles or chronic skin problems
- Having a family history of skin cancer (primarily melanoma)
Signs & Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Both type of skin cancer can often be found early and treated in their early stages. For basal and squamous cell cancer, you should look for new skin growths, spots or bumps that change in size or color or sores that do not seem to heal. The American Cancer Society recommends using the ABCDE rule to spot possible signs and symptoms of melanoma:
- Asymmetry – where one half of a mole does not match the other half
- Border – irregular or blurred edges on a mole or birthmark
- Color – a mole that has an uneven tone or includes patches of pink, white or blue
- Diameter – a mole that is larger than a quarter inch in diameter
- Evolving – a mole or birthmark that changes in size, shape or color
Skin Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment
The best way to prevent melanoma and basal and squamous cell cancers it to avoid exposure to UV light by staying in the shade, wearing sunscreen and wearing protective clothing. Checking your skin regularly for abnormal moles or other skin growths is also an important part of preventing skin cancer. Your doctor will likely perform a full body skin examination if you are at risk for skin cancer.
Other diagnostic tests include:
- Lymph node biopsy
- Sentinel lymph node biopsy
- Skin lesion biopsy
- Wide local excision
Most skin cancers can be cured with minor surgery or excision (removal of the skin cancer along with some of the surrounding healthy tissue). For more advanced cancers, a combination of surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Skin Cancer Education, Screenings & Treatment at BayCare
BayCare is proud to offer a variety of cancer services throughout Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg and all of Tampa Bay. Call (855) 314-8346 for a physician referral or find a doctor near you.