Twenty percent of Americans experience skin cancer by the time they reach the age of 70. Almost 10,000 people in the United States receive a skin cancer diagnosis every day, while about 50 people die from it in the same time period.
Skin cancer outcomes aren’t always bad, though. It’s one of the most survivable classes of cancer, particularly when it’s detected early.
The doctors at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates in Lawrence and Ottawa specialize in treating skin cancers of the head and neck, so they’re a go-to destination when you have concerns about a blemish or mole.
There are three common types of skin cancer, each with its own characteristics. Knowing what to watch out for is a key part of your protection.
Three kinds of skin cancer
Another bit of good news about skin cancer is that the most common kind is also the least dangerous. While it’s not usually life-threatening, it can be aggressive in the area where it forms.
This is basal cell carcinoma. Usually occurring where your skin is regularly exposed to the sun, it’s often found on your face and neck. Basal cell cancers can appear as bumps with a waxy or pearloid appearance, or they may be flat lesions that match your flesh color or are a darker brown shade.
Sometimes, basal cell cancer produces a bleeding or scabbed sore that heals, but then returns at a later time.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common skin cancer. It tends to develop more quickly and more deeply than its basal cell cousin. While squamous cell carcinoma also tends to appear on sun-exposed skin, people with darker skin may find it in places that are not usually exposed.
This kind of skin cancer could appear as a firm, red bump or as a flat lesion that looks crusted or scaly.
Melanoma is the least common but most dangerous form of skin cancer. If it’s not caught early, a melanoma may be hard to control and spread more easily than the other common cancers.
You can also develop melanoma anywhere on your body. Women tend to experience melanoma on the lower legs while men see it more often on the abdomen, chest, or face. Check for melanomas using the ABCDE mnemonic.
- Asymmetrical: Spots or moles have a different shape on each half
- Borders: The edge surrounding a lesion is irregular
- Color: Unusual coloring, including black and brown, may be concerning
- Diameter: Spots larger than one-quarter inch should be checked, particularly when growing
- Evolving: Lesions or moles that change in color, shape, or size are suspect
The safest course when you have any suspicious or unusual lesion, spot, or bump on your skin is to seek a medical assessment. When those blemishes are on your face or neck, call the closest office of Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates.
Early detection is your best move forward with any cancer. Make your appointment now.