Skin cancer is the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells. It can develop on sun-exposed areas of your skin, but can also form on skin areas that aren’t exposed to the sun. Skin cancer develops when DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations or genetic defects that leads to skin cells multiplying quickly and forming malignant growths.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the US.
The three most common types of skin cancer are:
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are highly curable but can cause disfigurements and be expensive to treat. Melanomas are more dangerous and cause the most skin cancer deaths (more than 10,000 deaths annually).
Skin Cancer Causes
There are a variety of factors that can cause skin cancer.
The majority of skin cancers are caused by sun exposure. Either long-term exposure, or short periods of intense sunlight exposure that cause sunburns, can lead to skin cancer. The UV (ultraviolet) light in the sun’s rays damage the skin cells’ DNA. Damaged DNA can occur long before cancer develops. Tanning beds also emit UV light that can damage your skin’s DNA.
Other Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
- Light skin color
- Family history of skin cancer
- Skin that easily sunburns, freckles, reddens, or the sun causes skin pain
- Blue or green eyes
- Blond or red hair
- Certain types or a large amount of moles
Skin Cancer Types
Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that form in the basal skin cells. Long-term sun exposure and/or intense, intermittent sunlight exposure are the most common causes of BCCs.
What It Looks Like: BCCs generally appear as red patches, open sores, shiny bumps, pink growths, or scars. BCCs don’t usually spread (metastasize). BCCs can cause disfigurements if not treated early.
Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) are the second most common skin cancers. An SCC is an abnormal growth of skin cells originating in the squamous cells in the skin’s top layer.
What It Looks Like: SCCs are characterized by scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths, or warts that have a depression in the middle. SCCs can bleed or are crusty. They can cause disfigurements and can be fatal if left untreated and permitted to grow.
Melanomas are the most dangerous forms of skin cancer that develops when damaged skin cell DNA triggers mutations (genetic defects) that cause skin cells to grow quickly and form malignant tumors. These tumors begin within the melanocytes that produce skin pigment. Melanomas frequently look like moles. Some melanomas start from moles.
Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, irregular UV exposure (such as a long-term pattern of sunburns), particularly for those genetically predisposed to the disease.
What It Looks Like: Most melanomas are black or brown, but can also look pink, red, skin-colored, blue, and sometimes white.
When to See a Doctor
The earlier skin cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat successfully. Both skin self-exams and professional skin exams help detect skin cancer early. Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that concern you. Be on the lookout for any changes in size, shape, color, or border and report it to your doctor. Not all skin changes are caused by skin cancer.
Dermatologists have special training to diagnose and manage skin cancers. Your dermatologist will perform a head-to-toe skin examination and review of your medical history.
Do you need a thorough skin cancer screening? Call Rendon Center at 561.750.0544 and schedule an appointment today, or fill out the form on this page.