Woman applying sunscreen while sunbathing

Types of skin cancer and what you need to know

Skin cancer can affect anyone. In fact, one in five Americans will develop one of the types of skin cancer at some time in their life. While you may think that the only time you’re at risk of developing skin cancer is when you’re basking on the beach or splashing in the pool, your skin is exposed to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun all throughout the day and every season of the year. It’s these UV rays that can damage your skin and cause skin cancer to develop. Luckily, skin cancer is treatable and beatable when it’s detected early. So, start seeing the light about the different types of skin cancer, along with the symptoms to spot, the most effective treatments, and some rays of hope to reduce your risk of skin cancer altogether.

Shedding light on the common types of skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common of all kinds of cancers, yet it’s uncommon for people to know that much about it. There are three types of skin cancer cells, which are known as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Take a closer look to distinguish their differences:

  1. Basal cell carcinoma – As the most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma often develops after years of regular sun exposure or indoor tanning. As a result, this is frequently one of the types of skin cancer on the face and neck. With this type of skin cancer, pictures usually show it looking like a flesh-colored bump, a shiny pink growth, or a reddish patch of skin. Sometimes with this type of skin cancer, pictures display it as a mark with a tan, brown, or black color, especially in people with darker skin. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital because if left untreated, this type of skin cancer can spread to the surrounding tissues and bones.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma – This is the second most common form of all types of skin cancer. Pictures of squamous cell carcinoma show it looking like a reddish bump, a scaly patch, or a recurring sore. Since squamous cell carcinoma usually forms on skin that’s often exposed to the sun, you’ll often spot this type of skin cancer on the face, ears, neck, and scalp. Yet, when the weather is warmer and more of your body is more exposed, you can also find this type of skin cancer on the back, arms, or chest. Over time, these types of skin cancer cells can spread and lead to damage or disfigurement. Early diagnosis and treatment can stop it from spreading to other parts of the body.
  3. Melanoma – This is the most dangerous form of skin cancer because it often spreads. When comparing the different types of skin cancer, pictures show melanomas looking like a dark mark on your skin. Just be aware that these types of skin cancer cells are sneaky because they can appear inside a dark mole you already have or as a sudden spot on your skin that looks somewhat different than all of the rest. Usually, you’ll find this type of skin cancer on the back, body, and legs, yet you may also see it on the face on occasion.

Spot the signs of skin cancer

With skin cancer, early detection can save you from later treatment. You need to check for all three types of skin cancer on the face, scalp, head, neck, arms, trunk, and legs on a regular basis. Look for any spots, sores, or moles that suddenly appear or change over time. An easy way to identify skin cancer is by remembering the ABCDE’s of skin cancer, which can help you detect any problems:

  • Asymmetry – Does the mark have an irregular shape or look different on every side?
  • Border – Are the edges uneven?
  • Color – Is the color irregular or odd?
  • Diameter – Is it larger than the size of a pencil eraser?
  • Evolving – Has it changed in shape, size, or color over time?

Treatment options for all types of skin cancer

If you notice any signs of skin cancer, see your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor right away because most skin cancers can be cured if they’re treated early. While treatment depends on the stage and severity, the most effective options include freezing, excisional surgery, cryotherapy, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Bright ideas to reduce your risk of skin cancer

Knowing that exposure to UV rays can cause skin cancer, you need to know how to protect your skin. These simple strategies can reduce your risk for all types of skin cancer on the back, body, face, and everywhere in between.

  1. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
  2. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day.
  3. Apply sunscreen to all areas of your skin exposed to the sun when you’ll be outside or close to a window.
  4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
  5. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, and pants when you’re outdoors.
  6. Stay away from tanning beds and sun lamps.
  7. Check your skin for marks and moles every month.
  8. Visit your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor at the first sign of a problem.

Now that you’ve seen the light about skin cancer, warmly embrace these skin-saving strategies to savor your time in the sun.