May is skin cancer awareness month! Many patients ask us what’s the difference between melanoma and other skin cancers. This blog talks about the most common types of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells, which is usually caused by the sun’s harmful rays. The type of skin cancer a person gets is determined by where the cancer begins. Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types of skin cancer. They start in the top layer of skin (the epidermis) and are often related to sun exposure. When cells that give our skin its color become cancerous, melanoma develops- which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma Basal cell carcinoma (also called basal cell skin cancer) is the most common type of skin cancer. About 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas.
These cancers start in the basal cell layer, which is the lower part of the epidermis.
These cancers usually develop on sun-exposed areas, especially the face, head, and neck. They tend to grow slowly. It’s very rare for a basal cell cancer to spread to other parts of the body. But if it’s left untreated, basal cell cancer can grow into nearby areas and invade the bone or other tissues beneath the skin.
If not removed completely, basal cell carcinoma can come back (recur) in the same place on the skin. People who have had basal cell skin cancers are also more likely to get new ones in other places.
Squamous cell carcinoma About 2 out of 10 skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas (also called squamous cell cancers). These cancers start in the flat cells in the upper (outer) part of the epidermis.
These cancers commonly appear on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, ears, neck, lips, and backs of the hands. They can also develop in scars or chronic skin sores elsewhere. They sometimes start in actinic keratoses- precancerous skin condition caused by too much exposure to the sun. Less often, they form in the skin of the genital area.
Squamous cell cancers can usually be removed completely (or treated in other ways), although they are more likely than basal cell cancers to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant Melanoma Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that develops when melanocytes (the cells that give the skin its tan or brown color) start to grow out of control.
Melanoma is much less common than the other types of skin cancers, but melanoma is more dangerous because it’s much more likely to spread to other parts of the body if not caught and treated early.
The American Cancer Society’s estimates for melanoma in the United States for 2020 are: • About 100,350 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 60,190 in men and 40,160 in women). • About 6,850 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 4,610 men and 2,240 women).
The rates of melanoma have been rising rapidly over the past few decades, but this has varied by age.
The Woodruff Institute for Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. We discuss treatment options for skin cancer in Skin Cancer & Mohs Surgery.
If you suspect you have skin cancer, please call our toll free number at 844.485.0104 for a consultation with one of our board-certified dermatologists at one of our offices in Naples, Bonita Springs, or Fort Myers.