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Different Types of Skin Cancer and What They Look Like

Fortunately, skin cancers can be treated efficiently when diagnosed at an early stage, improving the survival chances of the patient.

Updated:June 25, 2020, 2:42 PM IST
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Different Types of Skin Cancer and What They Look Like
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Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world. It usually occurs due to excessive UV exposure either due to the sun or UV tanning beds. The UV rays damage the DNA in the epidermal cells (outermost layer of skin) which then makes these cells divide uncontrollably and lead to cancer.

Fortunately, skin cancers can be treated efficiently when diagnosed at an early stage, improving the survival chances of the patient.

However, to get the right treatment, your doctors need to be able to correctly identify the type of skin cancer as well.

Here is all you need to know about the characteristics of the different types of skin cancer.

Skin cancer types

Broadly, there are two types of skin cancers: non-melanoma cancer and melanoma cancer.

Melanoma cancers are those that begin in the melanocytes - skin cells that make the pigment melanin. Melanin is responsible for protecting the skin from the harmful ultraviolet radiations of the sun.

Non-melanoma cancers are those that begin from any other type of skin cells, other than melanoma cells.

Based on this, the following are some of the most common types of skin cancer:

Basal cell carcinoma: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer.

This type of cancer begins in the basal cells (lower cells) of the epidermis which are responsible for replacing the upper epidermis as our skin wears off.

Basal cell carcinoma occurs more commonly in those with a lighter skin tone and it usually shows up as pinkish or skin coloured growth on neck, scalp, shoulders, back, or ears (exposed surfaces).

Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma starts from the squamous cells - the flat cells that make up the upper epidermis and are constantly shed during our lifetime. This type of cancer is, again, more common in those with light skin tone though it can also occur in those with darker skin.

Squamous cell carcinoma appears as scaly patches or hard red lumps and are seen more commonly on any exposed areas including the neck, scalp and hands.

Melanoma: Beginning in the melanocytes, melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer as it spreads quickly to surrounding tissues. Melanomas develop in moles or normal-looking skin and they may occur in any area of the body even if they are not exposed for a long time to the sun. If you have moles or skin lesions that are of different shades or change colour, shape or size over time, you should get them looked at by a doctor.

Merkel cell carcinoma: This is a rare type of skin cancer that begins in the Merkel cells present at the base of the epidermis. Merkel cell carcinoma appears as hard nodules or painless skin lesions. It is seen more commonly in those above the age of 50, especially those with a light skin tone.

For more information, read our article on Skin cancer.

Health articles on News18 are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

Disclaimer:

The information provided here is intended to provide free education about certain medical conditions and certain possible treatment. It is not a substitute for examination, diagnosis, treatment, and medical care provided by a licensed and qualified health professional. If you believe you, your child or someone you know suffers from the conditions described herein, please see your health care provider immediately. Do not attempt to treat yourself, your child, or anyone else without proper medical supervision. You acknowledge and agree that neither myUpchar nor News18 is liable for any loss or damage which may be incurred by you as a result of the information provided here, or as a result of any reliance placed by you on the completeness, accuracy or existence of any information provided herein.

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