The skin is the largest organ in the body. In addition to protecting you from injury and infection, it helps produce vitamin D, store water and fat, and regulate your body temperature. When skin cancer occurs, it causes abnormal changes to your skin characterized by uncontrolled cell growth. Doctors diagnose this condition in over 3 million people in the United States every year, making skin cancer the most common type of cancer. If detected early, cancer can usually be treated. However, knowing when to seek Asheville skin cancer treatment begins with understanding the different types of cancer and how they manifest. Here is a look at the four primary classifications of skin cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC, is named for the squamous cell which it affects. It usually appears in the middle or upper layers of the skin but can spread to deeper layers or other tissues and organs in the body. In most cases, SCC appears as a red-crusted nodule on the skin, typically on regions of the skin that receive the most sun exposure. It is also commonly found on pre-existing scars, the lips, and in the skin surrounding the vagina, anus, or mouth. SCC is responsible for 10 percent of all skin cancer diagnoses, and about 2 to 5 percent of these cases affect other parts of the body.
Basic Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal cell carcinoma BCC mostly affects the face, torso, arms, neck, head, and shoulders, or skin parts usually exposed to the sun. However, it can appear in other parts of the skin. Unlike SCC, BCC does not spread to other tissues and organs. But it can damage surrounding cells. The telltale signs of this cancer are scar tissue, rough red patches, nodules, or pimples. BCC is also the most common type of skin cancer, responsible for around 85 percent of all diagnoses.
Although it only accounts for 1 percent of all diagnoses, melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. It affects the melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the melanin pigment that determines the color of your skin, thus its name. If caught early, melanoma is highly treatable. However, it can quickly spread to the lymph nodes and other organs if left untreated.
Merkel Cell Cancer
BCC and SCC are commonly called keratinocyte carcinomas because of the type of cells they affect. Together with Merkel cell cancer, these three are often called non-melanoma cancers to distinguish them from melanoma. MCC is a rare, fast-spreading, and highly aggressive cancer that begins in the cells found in your hair follicles and just below your skin. In most cases, it affects the skin in the neck and head region. It is sometimes referred to as neuroendocrine carcinoma.
Discuss Worrying Skin Changes with a Dermatologist
In addition to SCC, BCC, MCC, and melanoma, skin cancer can also appear in rare presentations like skin adnexal tumors, Kaposi sarcoma, and cutaneous lymphomas. All of these conditions are treatable in their early stages but can worsen if ignored. This is why dermatologists recommend regularly checking your skin for any abnormalities which could be the warning signs of skin cancer. If you notice abnormal moles, growths, or worrying skin symptoms, contact a board-certified dermatologist to get a diagnosis. If you have skin cancer, they can begin treatment early and start you on your road to recovery.