Types of Skin Cancers

There are three types of skin cancers that are consistently the most frequently reported of the one million new cases each year in the United States. They are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. Early detection of any of these three skin cancer types allows patients to receive treatments that usually lead to a full recovery. Learn some basic skin cancer facts about everything from detection and prevention to treatments of the disease.

Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and appears mostly on the neck and head. It is also one of the most treatable forms of skin cancer, as lesions generally stay on the surface of the skin and rarely affect other organs. If BCC is suspected, a doctor will usually order a biopsy of the affected tissue. Once a diagnosis of BCC is made, a simple excision is usually all it takes to remove the cancerous cells from the body. Often, some healthy flesh is removed from around the lesion as well, just to be sure every cancerous cell is gone.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer is more serious than BCC, because it affects deeper tissues and can metastasize quickly in some cases. SCC occurs usually in the neck, head, upper body, lower legs and the arms and hands. These skin tumors often appear in senior citizens, and may appear as painful, reddish brown, crusted bumps. SCC tumors are generally removed via surgery, along with some surrounding healthy skin.

As the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma causes the deaths of around 15 percent of those affected with the disease. Increased risk for melanoma is linked to high exposure to ultraviolet rays and often begins as irregular moles. Melanoma can appear almost anywhere on the body, from the head and neck to hands, feet and upper back.

Treating melanoma aggressively depends on what the tumor looks like, whether it has spread and the location on the body. Surgery is one option, during which a physician will excise the tumor in a simple surgery. The surgery removes any cancerous tissue along with a margin of healthy tissue. In extreme cases, amputation is recommended for patients whose melanoma has advanced and the tumor is on an extremity, such as a finger or foot. Chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiation therapy are all valid ways to treat melanoma.

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