Skin cancer

Skin cancer — the abnormal growth of skin cells — most often develops on skin exposed to the sun. But this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight.

There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages. Early detection of skin cancer gives you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment.

Basal cell carcinoma
Nonmelanoma skin cancer
Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin


Where skin cancer develops

Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, and on the legs in women. But it can also form on areas that rarely see the light of day — your palms, beneath your fingernails or toenails, and your genital area.

Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. When melanoma occurs in people with dark skin tones, it’s more likely to occur in areas not normally exposed to the sun, such as the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Basal cell carcinoma signs and symptoms

it is carcinoma usually occurs in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your neck or face.

Basal cell carcinoma may appear as:

A pearly or waxy bump

A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion

A bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and returns

Squamous cell carcinoma signs and symptoms

Most often, squamous cell carcinoma occurs on sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your face, ears and hands. People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma on areas that aren’t often exposed to the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:

A firm, red nodule

A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface

Melanoma signs and symptoms

Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body, in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that becomes cancerous. it is most often appears on the face or the trunk of affected men. In women, this type of cancer most often develops on the lower legs. In both men and women, melanoma can occur on skin that hasn’t been exposed to the sun.

Melanoma can affect people of any skin tone. In people with darker skin tones, melanoma tends to occur on the palms or soles, or under the fingernails or toenails.

Melanoma signs include:

A large brownish spot with darker speckles

A mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds

A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black

A painful lesion that itches or burns

Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus

Signs and symptoms of less common skin cancers

Other, less common types of skin cancer include:

Kaposi sarcoma. This rare form of skin cancer develops in the skin’s blood vessels and causes red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes.

Kaposi sarcoma mainly occurs in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with AIDS, and in people taking medications that suppress their natural immunity, such as people who’ve undergone organ transplants.

Other people with an increased risk of Kaposi sarcoma include young men living in Africa or older men of Italian or Eastern European Jewish heritage.

Merkel cell carcinoma. Merkel cell carcinoma causes firm, shiny nodules that occur on or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. it’s cell carcinoma is most often found on the head, neck and trunk.

Sebaceous gland carcinoma. This uncommon and aggressive cancer originates in the oil glands in the skin. Sebaceous gland carcinomas — which usually appear as hard, painless nodules — can develop anywhere, but most occur on the eyelid, where they’re frequently mistaken for other eyelid problems.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that worry you. Not all skin changes are caused by skin cancer. Your doctor will investigate your skin changes to determine a cause.


Skin cancer occurs when errors (mutations) occur in the DNA of skin cells. The mutations cause the cells to grow out of control and form a mass of cancer cells.

Cells involved in skin cancer

Skin cancer begins in your skin’s top layer — the epidermis. The epidermis is a thin layer that provides a protective cover of skin cells that your body continually sheds. The epidermis contains three main types of cells:

Squamous cells lie just below the outer surface and function as the skin’s inner lining.

Basal cells, which produce new skin cells, sit beneath the squamous cells.

Melanocytes — which produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its normal color — are located in the lower part of your epidermis. Melanocytes produce more melanin when you’re in the sun to help protect the deeper layers of your skin.

Where your skin cancer begins determines its type and your treatment options.

Ultraviolet light and other potential causes

Much of the damage to DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight and in the lights used in tanning beds. But sun exposure doesn’t explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. This indicates that other factors may contribute to your risk of skin cancer, such as being exposed to toxic substances or having a condition that weakens your immune system.

Risk factors

Factors that can increase your skin cancer risk include:

Fair skin. Wrong skin. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of the color of the skin. Having less pigment (melanin) in your skin, however, provides less protection against damaging UV radiation. You are much more likely to develop skin cancer if you have blond or red hair and light-colored eyes and you freckle or sunburn easily than a person with darker skin.

A sunburn history. As a child or teenager, having one or more blistering sunburns increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Adult sunburns are also a risk factor.

Excessive exposure to sunlight. Anyone who spends significant time in the sun, particularly if the skin is not covered by sunscreen or clothing, may develop skin cancer. You are also at risk from tanning, including exposure to tanning lamps and beds. A tan is the injury response of your skin to excessive radiation from UV.

Climates with heat or high altitude. People living in hot, warm climates are more exposed to sunlight than people living in colder climates. Living at higher elevations, with the best sunshine, often exposes you to more radiation.


Individuals with many moles or irregular moles called dysplastic nevi have an increased risk of skin cancer. These anomalous moles— which appear odd and are typically larger than normal moles— are more likely to become cancerous than others. If you have an odd moles history, check them for changes on a regular basis.

Precancerous tumors in the skin. If you have skin lesions known as actinic keratoses, your risk of skin cancer can increase. Normally, these precancerous skin growths occur as rough, scaly patches varying from brown to dark pink in colour. On the neck, head and hands of fair-skinned people whose skin has been harmed by the sun, they are most prominent.

A skin cancer family history. If you have skin cancer in one of your parents or a sibling, you may have an increased risk of illness.

A personal history of cancer of the head. You are at risk of developing it again if you previously had skin cancer.

A poor form of immune. Persons with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for skin cancer. This includes people living with HIV / AIDS and those following an organ transplant taking immunosuppressive drugs.

Radiation exposure. People who have received radiation treatment for skin conditions such as eczema and acne, particularly basal cell carcinoma, may have an increased risk of skin cancer.

Exposure to different substances. Exposure to certain chemicals will increase the risk of skin cancer, such as arsenic.


Many skin cancers can be prevented. Follow these tips for skin cancer prevention to protect yourself:

You absorb UV radiation throughout the year, and clouds provide no protection against harmful rays. Avoiding the strongest sun helps you avoid sunburns and sunburns that weaken your skin and raise the risk of skin cancer. Over time, sun exposure can also cause skin cancer.

Wear sunscreen throughout the year. Not all harmful UV radiation is filtered out by sunscreens, particularly the radiation that can lead to melanoma. But in an overall sun protection system they play a major role.

Use a wide-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF, even on cloudy days. Apply generously sunscreen and reapply every two hours— or more often if you swim or suck. Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all the skin you’re exposed to, including your lips, ear tips, and neck and hand back.

Wear clothing that is comfortable. Sunscreens do not fully protect against UV rays. So cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing covering your arms and legs, and a wide-brimmed hat offering more protection than a baseball cap or viewfinder does.
Some companies also sell photoprotective clothing. A dermatologist can recommend an appropriate brand.

Don’t forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types radiation of UV — UVA and UVB rays.

Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications. Some common prescription and over – the-counter medicines can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, including antibiotics.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of any medications you take. Take extra precautions to stay out of the sun and protect your skin if they improve your exposure to sunlight.

Check your skin regularly and report your doctor’s changes. Often check your skin for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, bumps, and birthmarks.

Test the face, arms, ears and scalp with the aid of mirrors. Examine your chest and back, as well as your arms and hands ‘ tops and undersides. Examine your feet and the front and back of your thighs, including the soles and the gaps between your toes. Check the genital area as well as between the buttocks.

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