Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.
Despite that, over 5 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and skin cancer is America’s most common cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
“It’s important to underline the dangers of unprotected sun exposure and to check for warning signs, and always check your skin from head to toe for anything new, changing or unusual,” Dr. Bruce Peters of Ocean ENT Otolaryngology stated.
The three major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
BCC is the most common form of skin cancer, with approximately 3.6 million cases diagnosed annually in the U.S., according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
“BCCs manifest themselves as uncontrolled growths that can look like open sores, scars, shiny bumps or red patches,” Peters said. “If you follow a complete sun-protection strategy, you will vastly reduce your risk of developing this form of cancer.”
The good news is that BCCs rarely metastasize, according to Skin Cancer Foundation.
“However, if not identified early and treated properly, BCCs can be locally destructive and cause significant scarring,” Peters added.
SCC is the second most common skin cancer, as it affects an estimated 1.8 million people annually in the U.S. These tumors arise from squamous cells, which are located on the upper levels of the epidermis and can appear as scaly red patches, warts or open sores that can crust or bleed.
“SCCs are significantly more dangerous than BCCs because they can metastasize if not detected and treated in an early stage,” said Peters.
Skin Cancer Foundation notes that SCCs are mainly caused by cumulative ultraviolet radiation exposure over the course of a lifetime.
The best-known type of skin cancer, and perhaps the most dangerous, is melanoma.
“Arising from pigment-producing melanocytes, melanomas can become very hard to treat and even be fatal if allowed to progress,” according to Skin Cancer Foundation. “If the cancer is caught early, however, a patient has an estimated five-year survival rate of 99%. That’s why knowing how to recognize a potential melanoma is so important.”
Peters notes the best way to identify warning signs is to use the “ABCDEs” of melanoma.
- A = asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical, meaning if you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves do not match.
- B = border. Melanoma borders tend to be irregular or jagged.
- C = color. Multiple or uneven colors are a warning sign (i.e., varied shades of brown, black or tan).
- D = diameter/darkness. Is the lesion larger than the size of a pea or a pencil eraser?
- E = evolving. Melanomas can change in size, shape or color. They can also bleed, itch or crust over.
If you notice any changes in your skin, such as a new growth or a sore that doesn’t heal, don’t hesitate to reach out to your physician or Ocean ENT.
“We specialize in the diagnosis of skin lesions of the face, scalp and neck,” Peters said. “Our practice routinely performs skin cancer surgery.”