Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with over 9,500 Americans being diagnosed every day. Non-melanoma skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, affects over 3 million people in the US each year. In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of skin cancer, help you identify the early signs and common causes of skin cancer, and which natural skin cancer treatment options are available.
Identifying the Types of Skin cancer and their Characteristics
Knowing the types of skin cancer and their characteristics is the first step in familiarizing yourself with what is and isn’t a cause for concern. The three most common types of skin cancer are Melanoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). The type of Cancer is determined by its starting location; if it begins in the skin cells (known as basal cells), the individual has basal cell skin cancer. Melanoma, on the other hand, occurs when the pigment-producing cells become malignant.
Melanoma: The Most Dangerous Type of Skin Cancer
Melanoma is known as the most serious type of skin cancer, and 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, early diagnosis and treatment are essential. If you know the ABCDE warning signs, you’ll be able to recognize melanoma and catch it early on.1
ABCDE Warning Signs of Melanoma
Keeping an eye out for melanoma is easier if you follow the ABCDE warning signs of skin cancer. These initial five letters of the alphabet can aid in detecting a potential threat and help you identify 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
Asymmetry is an important clue when diagnosing skin cancer; many melanomas tend to be asymmetrical. This means if you draw a line drawn down the middle, the two halves would not yield a symmetrical image.
B stands for Border. Normal moles often have smooth, even borders while melanoma borders can have uneven or scalloped edges.
When assessing moles for potential malignancy, take note of the Color (C) factor: benign moles generally consist of one shade. However, if the mole has multiple hues, like light and dark brown or black, this may be indicative of melanoma. Additionally, as melanoma develops, red, blue, and white shades may become present.
Diameters of 1/4 inch or greater (the size of a pencil eraser) and any lesion which appears darker than its surroundings must be checked out by a doctor or dermatologist. Regardless of the size, such signs may serve as a warning sign.
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”
Besides following the ABCDE, looking out for the ‘ugly duckling’ is another way to monitor moles and lesions on your skin. This method involves surveying the normal moles and looking for one that appears out of place. For example, does one appear bigger, smaller, darker, or lighter compared to the others? If so, take note as it may be a warning sign of malignant melanoma.
If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to see a doctor immediately for further evaluation. Early detection is key for treating melanoma and improving your prognosis.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): The Most Common Type of Skin Cancer
BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, and it usually develops in individuals with fair skin. However, it can also develop in individuals with colored skin. BCC can resemble a round, flesh-colored growth, a pinkish patch, or a pearl-like bump. These can occur on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp, and neck although they can form anywhere on the body. To accurately identify whether a growth is a wart vs skin cancer, it is important to consult with a qualified healthcare provider who can perform a thorough evaluation and potentially recommend a proper diagnosis. BCC typically appears after prolonged exposure to the sun or tanning beds, and early diagnosis and treatment are crucial because it can penetrate the bones and nerves.1
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): Second Most Common Type of Skin Cancer
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
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
It is important to know the factors that put you at a greater risk for skin cancer in order to start early prevention. illness. Factors that can contribute to skin cancer include:
- Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation Exposure: Exposure to UV radiation boosts the chances of having melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
- A Family History of Skin Cancer: If any of your family members have had skin cancer, you may be more susceptible to it. Particularly, having a close family member who has had melanoma is especially indicative of higher risks.
- Fair Skin and Light Eye Color: People who have lighter skin, eyes, and hair colors tend to be more vulnerable to UV radiation and, as a result, may be more likely to get skin cancer.
- Long-Term Exposure or Tanning Beds: Being exposed to the sun for a prolonged period, whether intentional or accidental, can increase your risk of getting skin cancer. The usage of tanning beds will also increase your chances of potentially getting 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
How to Prevent Skin Cancer and Early Detection
Protecting your skin from UV radiation is the best way to prevent skin cancer, which you can do by following the ABCDE rule of sun safety for optimal cancer care. Steer clear of direct sun exposure between 10am and 4pm; block out the sun’s rays by wearing hats, protective clothing and sunglasses to protect sun exposed areas; lather up with sunscreen (minimum SPF 15) even on cloudy days; discover any changes to your skin at an early stage; and enlighten yourself and others about the harms of over-exposure to the sun.
In addition to these guidelines, remember to: stay in the shade whenever you can; minimize your use of tanning beds and booths; clothe yourself in tight weave fabrics when outside; and reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or heavy sweating.
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.
Skin Cancer Treatment Options
We know that dealing with your cancer or cancer of a loved one is difficult. That’s why at Immunity Therapy Center, we offer a wide range of treatments for skin cancer and have 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. Our therapies are non-invasive, meaning there are no harsh chemicals or need for a skin cancer surgery procedure required.
Written By: Dr. Pablo Orozco
Dr. Pablo Orozco is a Board Certified Medical Doctor from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California.
Dr. Orozco has been a treating physician at the Immunity Therapy Center for more than 3 years providing daily on site patient care. He works with patients on a daily basis and guides them through the treatment process. Dr. Orozco’s passion for Alternative Cancer Treatments along with his commitment to patient care is key to insure that our patients have the best experience and results possible.
- Types of Skin Cancer. AAD. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common
- Melanoma Warning Signs and Images. Sincancer. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma/melanoma-warning-signs-and-images/
- What to Look For: ABCDEs of Melanoma. AAD. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/find/at-risk/abcdes
- Merkel Cell Carcinoma Overview. Skincancer. https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/merkel-cell-carcinoma/
- Skin Cancer. AAD. https://www.aad.org/media/stats-skin-cancer
- Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma: Overview. AAD. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/ctcl
- Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans: Overview. AAD. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common/dfsp
- Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma: Overview. AAD. 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.