Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells due to a mutation in the skin cell’s genetic material. The three main types of skin cancer are known as melanoma, basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Skin cancer most often occurs on areas of the skin that is often exposed to sunlight including the face, ears, neck, chest, arms, legs, hands, lips and scalp. Skin cancer develops less commonly on areas not exposed to sunlight including the genitals and palms.
What is Skin Cancer? – Types of Skin Cancer
Those searching to answer what is skin cancer need to keep the three main types of skin cancer in mind as each have different signs and symptoms of skin cancer present. Each type affects a different layer of skin with basal cell carcinoma being in the lowest level of the skin, squamous cell carcinoma being in the middle layer of skin and melanoma occurring on the top layer of skin that produces pigment. Answering what is skin cancer depends greatly on which variety it is.
What is Skin Cancer? – Basal Cell Cancer
This type of skin cancer can appear as a bump that looks pearly or waxy. It may also look like a flat, flesh-color or brown lesion that appears similar to a scar. These symptoms often appear on a patient’s neck or face that are often exposed to the sun. One of the main characteristics of this type of cancer is a translucent appearance that may involve many tiny blood vessels or even ulcerations on the affected area. This variety of skin cancer is the most common and least dangerous of the main types of skin cancer. This form is generally treated quite successfully with surgery or radiation.
What is Skin Cancer? – Squamous Cell Cancer
Fair skinned people often develop this form of skin cancer on areas of the skin that is exposed to the sun while those with darker complexions more often develop this on areas that are not exposed to the sun. This type of skin cancer can appear as a firm, red bump or a lesion that is flat and has a scaly crusted surface to it. Those looking for the answer to what is skin cancer may want to keep in mind that this type of cancer can become fatal if not treated and will spread more quickly than basal cell carcinoma.
What is Skin Cancer? – Melanoma
This type of skin cancer is the most dangerous and least common of all varieties of skin cancer. Even so, the prognosis for patients affected with this type of cancer is extremely good as long as it is detected and treated in the early stages. The symptoms of skin cancer for this type include a mole that changes in color, feel or size; moles that bleed; large brown or black spots with darker speckles or small lesions with irregular borders and areas that appear blue, white or red in colour.
What is Skin Cancer? – Less Common Types
Kaposi sarcoma develops in the blood vessels of the skin and causes red or purple patches on mucous membranes or on areas of the skin. Merkel cell carcinoma is characterized by shiny nodules that occur just beneath the skin and hair follicles that are firm to the touch. Sebaceous gland carcinoma is found in the skin’s oil glands and is often seen on the eyelid. The symptom is hard nodules that are completely painless.
Anyone who has suspicious areas on the skin that make them wonder what is skin cancer should seek a professional opinion from a trained dermatologist as soon as possible. While not all changes to the appearance of the skin are due to skin cancer, it is important to seek a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible because of the huge increase in survival rates.