A primer on three common types of skin cancer
Melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, can begin as a new small, pigmented skin growth on normal skin.
The Associated Press
Q: What kind of abnormalities on the skin could be cancer and should be checked out?
A: This is a good question, especially with the hot,
suntanning weather approaching. The three most common types of skin
cancer are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma.
These cancers all have different characteristics. Basal cell and
squamous cell are usually more difficult to identify, but are less
dangerous than melanoma because they tend to stay in one spot and can be
treated easier. They tend to occur more often n older people.
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer
because it can spread in the body, however it is easier to identify. It
is important to do self-skin checks using the ABCDE’s of melanoma to
determine if moles or lesions could be cancerous.
A = Asymmetry. Part of the lesion doesn’t look like the rest.
B = Border. Melanomas frequently have irregular or jagged borders.
C = Colour. The colour of the lesion has changed. Melanomas are usually darker in colour.
D = Diameter. The diameter has changed and it’s more than 6 mm in size.
E = Evolution. Any change in the mole such as itching, bleeding, scabbing or growing.
When doing self-examinations make sure that you or someone else
checks your back, the back of your neck and ears, the backs of your
legs, your scalp, between your toes, and the bottom of your feet. For a
diagram on how to do a self-check, visit dermatology.ca.
If you observe anything that concerns you, make an appointment with
your physician. It’s important that melanoma be found and treated in its
Basal cell skin cancers usually appear on
sun-exposed areas, most commonly the face and neck, but also on the
trunk, arms and legs. The appearance of this type of skin cancer can
vary. Although these do not spread, they can be locally very
A firm, flesh-coloured or slightly reddish bump, often with a pearly
border. It may have small blood vessels on the surface, which gives it a
A sore or pimple-like growth that bleeds, crusts over and then
reappears. Any sore that does not heal within four weeks should be
examined by your dermatologist.
A small, red scaling patch seen most often on the trunk or limbs.
Squamous cell skin cancers appear as thickened, red,
scaly bumps or wartlike growths. They may also look like an open sore
or crusted skin. This type of skin cancer may grow quickly over a period
of a few weeks. It appears on chronically sun-exposed areas such as the
head and neck, arm, back of the hand and leg. Areas to be particularly
careful to check for this cancer include the rim of the ear and the lip
since the cancer can be more aggressive at these locations.
Most people can prevent skin cancer by avoiding overexposure to the
sun and other sources of ultraviolet light, such as tanning lamps. To
avoid the harmful effects of UV rays, you should:
• Avoid overexposing yourself to the sun without protection, especially between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. during the summer months.
• Wear a broad-brimmed hat
and clothing with a tight weave, including a long-sleeved shirt, long
pants and gloves, if you have to spend long periods in the sun.
• If you cannot cover up, use
a sunscreen lotion with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
Make sure it has both UVA and UVB protection.
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