Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. There are more cases of new skin cancer popping up each year than the combined amount of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers reported. While a vast majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, not all are due to the sun. If you have skin cancer, it is important to know which type you have as it affects your treatment options and your outlook (prognosis).
To learn more information about the different types of skin cancers, skin cancer treatment, and how you can avoid developing this type of cancer, connect with the expert Reno, NV Dermatologists at Integrated Dermatology and continue reading below.
Skin Cancer Types
Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer
Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are very common, but also highly treatable. These cancers are found in areas of the epidermis that are regularly exposed to the sun, such as the head, neck, and arms. The epidermis consists of three cell types—the basal cell, the squamous cell, and the melanocytes. Basal and squamous skin cancers develop when there is an overgrowth of cells in either of these layers.
Also known as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, these cancers have similar warning signs and risk factors to one another. Some symptoms of basal and squamous cell cancer include spots such as an open sore that won’t heal, red patches and noticeable skin irritation, shiny bumps or nodules forming, small to large pinkish growths on the skin, or flat white or waxy colored scar-like areas.
There are also several risk factors associated with these types of skin cancer including older age, having light-colored skin, previous skin cancer, psoriasis treatment, long-term or severe skin irritation, and excessive sun exposure. Typically, these skin cancers are detected by the patient themself through a self-examination of the skin and are later identified by a licensed Reno dermatologist. A biopsy of the growth will be necessary to determine whether there is evidence of skin cancer or not.
Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that may be less common than basal or squamous cell cancer but is more easily grown and spread. Like the basal and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma develops in the epidermis, specifically the melanocytes. Melanocytes are cells in the basal layer of skin that produce the pigment melanin. When these cells begin to grow uncontrollably is when melanoma cancer begins to form.
Because melanin is responsible for giving skin a tan or dark color, melanoma growths present themselves as moles. Over time, the mole will likely change size, shape, or color indicating that it may be a sign of melanoma skin cancer. The best way to determine if your mole is something more harmful than a simple mole is to use the ABCDE rule:
- Asymmetry – Part of the mole does not match the rest in appearance
- Border – Edges of the mole will be rigged, irregular, or rough
- Color – The color of the mole will not be the same throughout (different shades of brown or black may appear and there may be pink, white, or red spots)
- Diameter – Melanomas can range from any size, but if the spot is larger than 6 millimeters in diameter (across), it’s likely to be a sign of melanoma
- Evolving – Changes in mole shape, size, or color may indicate melanoma
Merkel Cell Skin Cancer
Merkel cell carcinoma is an aggressive and rare type of skin cancer that often appears on the face, head, or neck as a red-blue or pinkish-colored nodule. This type of cancer typically affects older people who have had long-term UV light exposure or have weak immune systems. Other risk factors include having light-colored skin and a history of other skin cancers.
Merkel cell skin cancer grows and spreads quickly. What starts in the Merkel cells, which are found in the skin of vertebrates, will often metastasize into other parts of the body and affect nerve endings in the body that allow your sense of touch. The lymph nodes are commonly attacked by cancerous Merkel cells after beginning in the skin.
Signs of Merkel cell carcinoma typically start the same—with a fast-growing and painless nodule on the skin. The nodule, or tumor, may be skin-colored, red, blue, or purple in color. Symptoms that are of significant concern occur when changes in the mole’s appearance are present. If you notice a mole, freckle or bump that is changing in size, shape or color, growing rapidly, or bleeding easily after minor trauma, such as washing your skin or shaving, it’s time to see your Reno dermatologist.
Lymphoma of the Skin
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that starts in cells that are part of the body’s immune and lymphatic systems. Rare lymphomas that start in the skin are called skin lymphomas (or cutaneous lymphomas). This type of cancer is rare and typically affects the skin as well as parts of the immune system such as lymph nodes.
Because lymphoma affects the immune system, the symptoms of this skin cancer may be vast. The most common symptoms of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma include hair loss, enlarged lymph nodes, thickening of the skin on a person’s palms or soles, lumps that form on the skin and break easily, skin irritation that is red, flaky, or itchy.
The risks for developing lymphoma of the skin are mostly down to genetics and age. According to the American Cancer Society, those at the greatest risk for being diagnosed with lymphoma of the skin are African American males over the age of 50. Skin lymphoma is also more common in people with weakened immune systems or those who have undergone an organ transplant and are on medication that suppresses the immune system. Certain infections such as the HTLV-1 virus and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) may also be associated with skin lymphoma.
Kaposi sarcoma is an extremely rare type of cancer that causes lesions in the soft tissues including the skin. The lesions commonly show up as painless purple spots on the legs, feet, or face, but may also appear in the mouth, lungs, or lymph nodes. This cancer typically affects people with immune deficiencies and is most often treated with radiation or chemotherapy.
Kaposi sarcoma is caused by an infection with the virus HHV-8 (human herpesvirus) that is triggered in those with a weakened immune system. People with HIV have the highest risk of developing Kaposi sarcoma as the disease allows cells with the HHV-8 infection to multiply. Old age, being male, and coming from Eastern European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern descent are all factors that may contribute to the development of this skin cancer.
Symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma may not present themselves in the early stages of the disease. As the tumor grows it will likely cause a nodule or lump to form on the skin and may become painful to touch. If the lump increases in size, comes back after being removed, or becomes increasingly painful, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Our Reno chemical peel services are designed to renew and repair your skin from deep-rooted skin damage. Early signs of skin cancer can be effectively treated with chemical peels that penetrate through the first layer of skin to reach the initial source.
To learn more about Chemical Peels contact Integrated Dermatology of Reno online or call us at 775.829.1212
Learn More About Skin Cancer Risks, Symptoms, and Treatment with Integrated Dermatology of Reno
If you have skin cancer, are close to someone who does, or are concerned about your risk of developing skin cancer, knowing what to expect can help you cope. With Integrated Dermatology of Reno, you can find out all about the various skin cancers, including risk factors, symptoms, how the cancer is detected, and how it is treated.
Connect with our qualified, licensed, and professional dermatologists in Reno, NV today for more information.