Skin cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the skin.
Types of skin cancer
Other than, the three major types of skin cancer, other rare varieties hat start in the hair follicles and sweat glands also exist.
The type of skin cancer that develops from melanocytes (pigment cells) is called Melanoma. Usually the parts of your body that are overexposed to the sun are the first place that melanoma visits, however, it can also start in a part never exposed to the sun. Examples of such parts are as the eye, nervous system, and mucous membranes that line your mouth and digestive tract.
Though this type of cancer is least common, it is also the most serious due to its potential to spread to other parts of the body. Often curable in early stages, Melanoma grows deeper into the dermis, spreading if unchecked for a long time.
Types of Melanoma
Superficial Spreading Melanoma
65% of all melanoma cases fall in this category. Starting as a dark colored spot, this type soon spreads across the epidermis and eventually descends down into the dermis.
This type accounts for 15% of all melanomas. Its first appearance is as a dark colored raised lump on the skin surface. It may also be, however, red, pink, or colorless.
Lentigo Maligna Melanoma
More common in older people, LMM accounts for 10% of melanoma cases. Its first appearance is as a large freckle on the part of the body that gets a lot of sun exposure. Its slow growth makes it possible to catch it before it has penetrated more deeply into the skin.
Acral Lentiginous Melanoma
One of the rarer types, this type of melanoma most commonly grows on the palms, soles, or under the nails.
Other types of melanoma
Even rarer, these types may start in the eyes, nasal tissue, anus, nervous system, and the genital tract.
This term is used for a melanoma in which the abnormal cancer cells have not penetrated into the dermis.
Types of Non-Melanoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
The lion’s share of non-melanoma cancer cases – 70% – are occurrences of BCC. Common locations where this type of cancer develops are the head, neck, and upper body – parts of the body that receive the highest amount of sun exposure – but may also be found in other areas, such as the genitals. While some BCCs may heal only to return, some of them even bleed and get inflamed. The dead tissue might start to slough off.
Usually a BCC might appear as one of the following:
- Reddish patch of dry skin that won’t heal
- Flesh-colored (or pink, red, or brown) pearl-shaped lump
- Pimple that just won’t clear
- Sore that bleeds, heals, and then returns
- Scar that feels waxy — may be skin-colored, white, or yellow
- Group of slow-growing, shiny pink or red growths — look like sores, often scaly and bleed easily
- Flat or sunken growth — feels hard, may be white or yellow
BCCs arrive without any warning symptoms most of the time, growing slowly and thus easier to treat in early stages. A BCC larger than 5 cm will have penetrated deeper and damaged surrounding tissue. Treatment not only becomes difficult at this stage but there is now an increase the chance of the BCC returning.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Accounting for the remaining 30% non-melanoma skin cancers, SCC usually appears on the head, hands, neck, lower legs, or forearms – the inside and outside of the mouth, as well as, genitals are not safe either. SCCs are relatively fast growers and take weeks to months to grow. They are also likely to spread unlike the BCCs. The areas that they most commonly spread to are scalp, lips, temples, or ears, if left untreated.
Often reddish in color, they look like:
- Crusty or scaly bumps, pearls or patches
- Open itching and bleeding sores that can heal and return
- Thick, scaly patches on the lip