There are many types of skin cancer but the three most common types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are rarely life threatening and melanoma is the very dangerous type of skin cancer that can be life threatening. However, all three types need to be treated or they can continue to grow.
Exposure to the sun is a main cause of these types of skin cancer.
Of these three types, the most frequently encountered is basal cell carcinoma and affects 1 in 5 Americans in their lifetime.
Basal cell skin cancer is most often on the face but it can occur anywhere on the body. It might start out looking like a pimple that never goes away and bleeds easily. Although basal cell carcinoma is almost never life threatening, it can continue to grow and bleed and should therefore be treated. Basal cell skin cancers can be treated in a number of different ways. They can be removed with Mohs surgery (a method to cut out skin cancers on the face), excised (a simple way to cut out the cancer), scraped away or treated with a cream. Your dermatologist can discuss with you the best way to treat your specific type of skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma is another type of skin cancer. This type most often starts out looking like a warty growth or a thickened area of skin. It may be tender a times. There are types of squamous cell skin cancers that grow quickly but most grow very slowly. They are treated with the same methods as basal cell skin cancers.
Melanoma can be life threatening and it is treatable if it is caught early on. People at higher risk for melanoma are those with fair skin, light colored hair, have a history of excessive sun exposure or indoor tanning, and those with family members who have had a melanoma. It is best to catch a melanoma early on before it grows and spreads internally. Warning signs that might indicate that a skin lesion is a melanoma are the ABCDE signs. You should seek a physician’s opinion on a skin lesion if it has any one of the following ABCDE signs:
Learn more at the American Academy of Dermatology: AAD Skin Cancer.