Skin cancer is a broad term that refers to any type of cancer that begins in the cells of the skin. These cancers usually develop in the top layer of skin, also known as the epidermis.
The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. In addition, there are several types of skin cancers that occur much less frequently, including kaposi sarcoma, merkel cell carcinoma, cutaneous (skin) lymphoma, skin adnexal tumors and various types of sarcomas.
Types of skin cancer
Skin cancer may initially appear as a bump, nodule or irregular patch on the surface of the skin. As the cancer grows, the size or shape of the visible skin mass may change. As these visible changes are occurring, the cancer is likely expanding and moving into the lower layers of the skin.
If left untreated, skin cancer will continue to grow down into the dermis and the subcutaneous tissues. In the most advanced stages, skin cancer may spread into nearby muscle tissue, cartilage or bone. Once the cancer spreads into the blood or lymph fluids, it may reach other areas in the body, like the liver or lungs.
Types of skin cancer include melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Keratoacanthoma are tumors that are usually benign (non-cancerous), slow growing and often go away on their own. Keratoacanthomas tumors that do continue to grow are often treated like a form of squamous cell carcinoma.
Skin cancer risk factors GENERAL
Older age: Skin cancer risks increase as you age, which is likely due to accumulated exposure to UV radiation. However, skin cancers are increasingly being found in younger individuals, possibly because they are spending more time in the sun.
Weakened immune system: Conditions that weaken the immune system, such as immune suppression therapy associated with organ transplantation, may increase your skin cancer risks.
Male gender: Men are approximately two times more likely to develop basal cell carcinomas and three times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinomas compared with women, and this may also be related to increased exposure to the sun.
Fair skin: Caucasians have an increased risk of developing skin cancer than non-whites. The risk is also higher in individuals with blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, or skin that burns or freckles easily.
Moles or dysplastic nevi: Most moles are harmless and will never develop into cancer, but having a large number of moles may increase the risk for developing melanoma. In addition, the presence of dysplastic nevi (moles that look a little like moles and a little like melanoma) can increase lifetime risk by 10 percent. Although most dysplastic nevi will not develop into melanomas, a small percentage can, and individuals with these types of moles should see a dermatologist regularly for a thorough skin exam.
Severe or long-term skin inflammation: Skin that has been damaged by a severe burn, underlying severe bone infection or severe inflammatory skin disease may be more likely to develop a skin cancer, although this risk is thought to be small.
Family or personal history: Individuals with one or more first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with skin cancer are at increased risk. In addition, individuals who have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer are at increased risk for developing the disease again.
Inherited conditions: Conditions such as Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), an inherited disease that affects the skin's ability to repair UV damage, are at increased risk for developing skin cancers, and may develop them at an earlier age.
Smoking: Smokers are more likely to develop squamous cell skin cancers, particularly on the lips.
Chemical exposure: Certain chemicals, including arsenic, industrial tar, coal, paraffin and certain types of oil may increase the risk for certain types of non-melanoma skin cancers.
Basal cell nevus syndrome: Individuals with this condition, also known as Gorlin Syndrome, often develop many basal cell carcinomas over their lifetimes, and these may start before they are even 20 years old.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection: Infection with certain types of HPV, particularly those that affect the anal or genital area, may increase your skin cancer risks.
Radiation exposure: Treatment with radiation can increase the risk for developing skin cancers in the exposed area.
Psoriasis treatment: A treatment for psoriasis, psoralen and ultraviolet light treatment (PUVA) can increase the risk for developing squamous cell carcinoma, and potentially other forms of skin cancer.
Skin cancer stages
Non−melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinomas rarely spread and may not be staged. The chance that squamous cell carcinomas will spread is slightly higher and may be staged using the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM System.
Skin cancer diagnostics and treatment options
At each of our hospitals, you'll find innovative skin cancer treatments and technologies−all under one roof. Our skin cancer experts use state−of−the−art diagnostic tools, including advanced imaging and laboratory tests, to evaluate skin cancer. This diagnostic evaluation takes about three to five days.
Then together, we develop a comprehensive skin cancer treatment plan that works for you. Your individualized plan will include advanced medical treatments and technologies, combined with integrative oncology services to help reduce side effects and keep you strong in body, mind and spirit.