Early stage skin cancer may resemble a small spot or discolored blemish significantly smaller than the size of a fingernail. It may be reddish or brown, though sometimes white with flaking skin cells surrounded by a small blotch of darker skin.
If you have concerns about the recent appearance of unusual spots on your skin, schedule an appointment right away with a board-certified dermatologist.
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. Skin cancer develops when mutations occur in the DNA of skin cells. The mutations can quickly cause cells to grow out of control and turn into a mass of cancer cells, which then attack healthy cells.
The most common cause of skin cancer is prolonged overexposure to the sun, sometimes over a period of years, but skin cancer can also develop on areas of your skin not exposed to sunlight.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Other, rare forms of skin cancer also exist.
Skin cancer starts in the epidermis, which is the top layer of your skin. This top layer contains three main types of cells:
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer worldwide. In most cases it is caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Nearly 200,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed every year and more than 1 million Americans are living with melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Research has shown that patients with skin of color are less likely to survive melanoma. Late detection is one of the critical reasons for this higher mortality rate. On average, 2 people die of skin cancer in the United States every hour, reports the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Many of these deaths are unnecessary and preventable. With early detection and treatment, the 5-year survival rate from melanoma is close to 99 percent.
You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at an early stage. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.
Skin cancers grow primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also form on areas seldom exposed to the sun, including your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.
Skin cancer can attack people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in people with dark skin tones, it’s more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun.
Basal cell carcinoma is usually caused by sun exposure, with bumps and lesions appearing on the neck or face.
Basal cell carcinoma may look like a pearly or waxy bump, a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion or a sore that bleeds, scabs over, heals and returns.
Squamous cell carcinoma most often occurs on sun-exposed areas of the body, including the face, ears and hands. It may appear as red nodules or flat lesions with a crusted surface.
Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and can develop anywhere on the body. In men, melanoma most often appears on the face or torso. In women, melanoma often develops on the lower legs. Melanoma can also develop on skin that hasn’t been exposed to the sun.
Melanoma can resemble a large, brown spot with darker speckles, moles that change in size, color or texture, painful lesions that itch or burn, or dark lesions on the palms, soles of the feet, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus. The vast majority of skin cancer deaths are caused by melanoma, the American Academy of Dermatology reports.
This is a rare form of skin cancer that develops in the skin’s blood vessels and causes red or purple patches. It often attacks people with weakened immune systems, such as individuals with AIDS, or in people taking medications that suppress their immune system, such as patients who’ve received organ transplants.
Merkel cell carcinoma causes firm, shiny nodules that occur on the surface or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. Merkel cell carcinoma most often appears on the head, neck and torso.
This rare but aggressive cancer develops in the skin’s oil glands. Sebaceous gland carcinomas — which usually appear as hard, painless nodules — can develop anywhere, but frequently occur on the eyelid, where they can be mistaken for other eyelid problems.
Plan an appointment with a dermatologist as soon as possible if you notice any changes to your skin that worry you. Not all skin changes are evidence of cancer. Your dermatologist will evaluate your skin changes to identify the cause and prepare a plan of treatment. Remember, early detection of skin cancer is the key to proper treatment and survival. Almost all skin cancers respond favorably to treatment – when detected early enough.
Some individuals are more prone to risk of skin cancer than others.
Follow these tips to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
The good news is, we’ve taken the stress out of seeing a dermatologist. You don’t have to look far for excellent dermatology services. Best of all, there’s no waiting.
In many parts of New York and throughout the country, patients often wait weeks before they can see a board-certified dermatologist and receive a diagnosis, much less actual treatment.
That’s no longer necessary.
At Walk-in Dermatology, patients can see a board-certified dermatologist seven days a week. Our dermatologists will evaluate your skin and answer all your questions. We will work with you to set up a treatment plan to address your skin condition and get at the root of your issue – all convenient to your schedule.
No more waiting days or even weeks to see a dermatologist. Walk-in Dermatology is here for you. We are open and ready to help you regain healthy skin that positively glows with a youthful look.
Read more: Is Virtual Dermatology Effective?