Skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the United States with approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. diagnosed every day. Research shows that non-melanoma skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, affects more than 3 million Americans a year.5
With our helpful guide, we’ll dive into the different types and help you learn how to identify skin cancer. Knowledge is key and identifying skin cancer early is important for determining your skin cancer natural treatment options.
Knowing the Types of Skin Cancer and Their Signs
Identifying skin cancer types is the first step to familiarizing yourself with what is and isn’t a cause for concern. The three forms of skin cancer that are most common include Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma. The type of cancer that individuals get is determined by where the cancer begins; cancer that begins in the skin cells (called basal cells) means that an individual has basal cell skin cancer. When the cells that give our skin its color turn to cancerous cells, melanoma develops.¹
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It tends to develop in people who have fair skin, though people who have colored skin also develop BCC. This type can resemble a round, flesh-colored growth, a pinkish patch, or a pearl-like bump and is often found on the head, neck, and arms, though they can form anywhere on the body (like the chest, abdomen, and legs). BCCs typically form after many years of consistent exposure to the sun or tanning beds and because they can grow deep, early diagnosis and treatment are important. If the BCC does grow, it can penetrate the bones and nerves.¹
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
The next most common kind of skin cancer is Squamous Cell Carcinoma — or SCC. Although this cancer can develop in people with darker skin, it’s most likely to develop in those with light skin. SCC tends to appear in red firm bumps or scaly patches. It can also be a sore that heals and then reopens. It can be seen everywhere from the face to the neck, arms, chest, and back, as these are areas that tend to be exposed to the sun the most. SCC often grows deep in the skin and causes damage and disfigurement. SCC can also develop from a precancerous skin growth called actinic keratoses (AKs). These appear in the form of dry and scaly patches or spots in the skin that are caused by too much sun exposure. Although an AK isn’t skin cancer, it can eventually turn into squamous cell carcinoma. AKs are often seen on those with fair skin in places that get ample amounts of exposure to the sun — like the hands, neck, head, and forearms. ¹
Often called “the most serious skin cancer,” the first signs of melanoma usually present themselves in a mole that is already on your skin or it can appear suddenly as a dark spot that stands out from the rest. Because melanoma tends to spread, it has people wondering is melanoma treatable? It’s important to know that with early diagnosis and treatment, it can be.
If you know the ABCDE warning signs, you’ll be familiar with how to identify skin cancer and can catch it early on. ¹
ABCDE Warning Signs of Melanoma
One of the easiest ways of identifying cancerous moles is to follow the ABCDE warning signs of skin cancer. Use these first five letters of the alphabet as a guide to help you recognize possible melanoma. Remember, most moles, brown spots, and growths on the skin are harmless, but using the ABCDEs (and the Ugly Duckling sign) can help you stay on top of your skincare and catch a problem before it spreads. ²‚³
A stands for Asymmetry. When identifying skin cancer, know that most melanomas tend to be asymmetrical, which means if you visually cut them in half — or drew a line down the middle — the halves would not match.
B stands for Border. Normal moles often have smooth, even borders while melanoma borders can have uneven or scalloped edges.
C stands for Color. Keep in mind that benign moles typically are one single color. If there are multiple colors — like different shades of brown or black — this can be a warning sign of malignant melanoma. As the melanoma grows, there can also be colors like red, blue, or white.
D stands for Diameter or Dark. If the lesion is about 1/4 inch in diameter or larger (about the size of a pencil eraser) you’ll want to get it checked out by your dermatologist or doctor. Some also say to look for skin lesions that are darker than others, regardless of the size, as this can be a warning sign as well.
E stands for evolving. If there is a change in size, shape, or color of your skin spot, this is a warning sign, too. You also want to look for elevation of the spot as well as bleeding, itching, or crusting.
The “Ugly Duckling”
Though it’s not part of the standard ABCDE, looking for “the ugly duckling” is another way to keep track of moles and lesions on your body. This strategy refers to checking normal moles on your body and noticing if there are any that stand out from the crowd. Is a certain spot larger, smaller, darker, or lighter compared to its neighbors? If so, keep your eye on it — as this might be a signal of malignant melanoma.
Identifying Rarer Types of Skin Cancer
Aside from the more common types of skin cancer, there are rarer forms and corresponding signs to familiarize yourself with.
Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma
Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a rare type of blood cancer that begins in a type of white blood cells called the T-lymphocyte (T-cell), which helps to prevent infections and diseases. CTL is broken down into two types — Mycosis fungoides, which often looks like a rash, and Sézary syndrome — which is more aggressive and can look like eczema or cause red, swollen skin.6
Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC)
Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer. Every year, about 3,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. and this particular cancer has a high risk of returning and metastasizing within two to three years after initial diagnosis. Merkel cells can be found deep within the top layer of the skin and the tumors often (not always) appear on sun-exposed areas as a pearly and pimple-like lump that is sometimes skin-colored, red, purple or bluish-red. Although MCC is said to be about three to five times more likely to be deadly than melanoma, it can be treated successfully with early detection. 4
Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans (DFSP)
DFSP begins in the middle layer of the skin and tends to grow slowly. It rarely spreads, which means it has a high survival rate, though treatment is important. Without it, DFSP can grow into fat, muscle, and bone. The first sign is often a small bump on the skin that grows into a raised, reddish-brown patch. 7
Sebaceous Carcinoma (SC)
Also called sebaceous gland carcinoma, sebaceous gland adenocarcinoma, or meibomian gland carcinoma, SC is a rare skin cancer that typically begins with a painless, round, tumor on the upper or lower eyelid. Because it can spread, it’s considered an aggressive form of cancer, but if it’s found early and treated, treatment tends to be successful. 8
Check Yourself Regularly
When it comes to identifying cancerous moles, a good rule of thumb is to check yourself regularly. Examine your full body once a month to see if there are any changes to existing moles or new moles that have appeared. Enlist the help of a family or friend to help check hard-to-see areas like your lower or upper back. In women, melanomas are common on the legs, and for men, melanoma can often develop on the trunk. Melanomas can, however, develop in areas on the skin, even in places that aren’t exposed to the sun. As part of your skincare routine, visit a professional for annual skin exams and as always, if something doesn’t seem quite right, please make sure to seek out the advice of a doctor or dermatologist. 2
Checking yourself regularly and knowing what signs to look for is a crucial part of identifying skin cancer. As with all cancers, early detection is key and familiarizing yourself with your body — and your moles — is important.
Remember that moles and dark spots can be harmless, but when in doubt — get it checked out! If you find a lesion and test positive for skin cancer, Immunity Therapy Center is here to help you fight back with holistic skin cancer treatment. We customize non-invasive therapies and natural remedies for skin cancer to come up with a plan that works for your body and your mind.
We know that dealing with your cancer or cancer of a loved one is difficult. That’s why at Immunity Therapy Center, we’ve made it our mission to provide a more natural and effective way to fight cancer with our alternative cancer treatments. We provide clients with a unique skin cancer alternative treatment plan that serves to boost the immune system and give you strength.
- aad.org. Types of Skin Cancer https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common
- skincancer.org. Melanoma Warning Signs and Images https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma/melanoma-warning-signs-and-images/
- aad.org. What to Look For: ABCDEs of Melanoma https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/find/at-risk/abcdes
- skincancer.org. Merkel Cell Carcinoma Overview https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/merkel-cell-carcinoma/
- aad.org. Skin Cancer https://www.aad.org/media/stats-skin-cancer
- aad.org. Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma: Overview https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/ctcl
- aad.org. Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans: Overview https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/dfsp
- aad.org. Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma: Overview https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/sebaceous
At Immunity Therapy Center, our goal is to provide objective, updated, and research-based information on all health-related topics. This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles. All information has been fact-checked and reviewed by Dr. Carlos Bautista, a Board Certified Medical Doctor at Immunity Therapy Center. All information published on the site must undergo an extensive review process to ensure accuracy. This article contains trusted sources with all references hyperlinked for the reader's visibility.