Which is Which? The Three Main Types of Skin Cancer

Which is Which? The Three Main Types of Skin Cancer

Today, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than any other malignancy. While there are several types of skin cancers, three forms are much more common than any of the other types. This article focuses on the three main types of skin cancer, and how a person can learn to distinguish among them.

Each of the three primary types of skin cancer is associated with a different type of skin cell. The severity of the cancer varies depending on which type of cancer a person is diagnosed as having. These three cancers include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

The first of these, basal cell carcinoma, is a nonmelanoma. This neoplasm initiates in the skin’s basal cells. It is this type of cancer with which 90 percent of persons living in the United States who have skin cancer are diagnosed. Most experts consider basal cell carcinoma to be the least serious type of skin malignancy, because it grows very slowly and does not spread. It is usually found on areas of the body most frequently exposed to sunlight.

Squamous cell carcinoma is also considered a nonmelanoma. It begins in the outer layer of the skin known as the epidermis, in cells referred to as keratinocytes. Although it is more serious than the first, the chances of a cure are high if it is caught and treated before it spreads to other organs. Squamous cell carcinoma is also typically found on body parts that receive the greatest sun exposure.

Malignant melanoma is the most serious skin cancer. This type of malignancy begins in cells called melanocytes. These produce melanin, a chemical that gives color to the skin. The amount of this chemical determines how light or dark a person’s skin color will be. Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but is most often found on areas of the body that do not receive frequent sun exposure.

This cancer can quickly spread to other body organs and tissues. Therefore, people diagnosed with melanoma have a much lower overall cure rate. Most people who are successfully treated for melanoma are diagnosed very early in the stages of this disease.

People who work in the sun or are frequently exposed to sunlight have a higher than normal risk of developing skin cancer. If you are at risk, be aware of the symptoms of this malignancy and report any changes in your skin to your doctor. Knowing these symptoms just might save your life!

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