Skin Cancer

Examination & Treatment

Types of Skin Cancer

Three Main Types of Skin Cancer 

 

There are three main types of skin cancer. The most serious is melanoma and is best detected early.

 

Like all body tissues our skin is made up of cells: basal cells, squamous cells and melanocytes (pigment producing cells).

 

Skin cancer types are named after the skin cell in which the cancer develops: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Carcinoma is another word for cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are often grouped together and called ‘common’ or ‘non-melanoma’ skin cancers.

 

What does skin cancer look like?

 

Skin cancer generally stands out as being quite different to surrounding skin. If a spot strikes you as being a bit odd, take it seriously.

 

Skin cancer mostly appears as a new and unusual looking spot. It may also appear as an existing spot that has changed in colour, size or shape.

 

Here are some different types of skin cancers (some images kindly provided by the Skin & Cancer Foundation Victoria).

 

 

 

Melanoma

 

Melanoma can grow very quickly. It can become life-threatening in as little as six weeks and if untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body. Although it is more common on sun exposed areas, it can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun.

Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma Skin Cancer

Superficial Spreading Melanoma

 

Melanoma is usually flat and in the initial stages grows outwards in the epidermis before growing downwards. It is easier to cure if detected before the downward growth into the dermis occurs. It may be any colour including pink, tan, black or skin colour.

Nodular Melonoma Skin Cancer

Nodular Melanoma

 

A quarter of melanomas starts as small lumps and have vertical growth from the start. They are usually firm to touch and usually grow 0.5 mm per month. They may also be any colour. It is important that this type of melanoma be treated as urgently as possible

Checking for Skin Cancer

 

How do you recognise a melanoma?

 

Traditionally we have used the ABCDEFG acronym to look for melanoma where:

 

A = Asymmetry, look for spots that are asymmetrical not round

B = Border, look for spots with uneven borders

C = Colour, look for spots with an unusual or uneven colour

D = Diameter, look for spots that are larger than 7 mm

E = Elevated

F = Firm

G = Growing

 

However, these changes are often late, and to enable early detection, Dr Stanley Green prefers the acronym:  SCAN YOUR SKIN as developed and promoted by the Skin Cancer of Australasia.

 

 

It may be normal to develop new moles late into our third decade. But no new mole should be unique-it should resemble existing moles and it should not grow or change in any way.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

 

This type of skin cancer is not as dangerous as melanoma but may spread to other parts of the body if not treated. It grows over some months and appears on skin most often exposed to the sun. It can be a thickened, red, scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate or can present as a fast growing lump.

 

This type of skin cancer is more prevalent in individuals who have had chronic sun exposure. In people over 65 it is responsible for as many deaths as melanoma and is particularly dangerous when it occurs on the lips, ears or nose.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

 

This type of skin cancer is not as dangerous as melanoma but may spread to other parts of the body if not treated. It grows over some months and appears on skin most often exposed to the sun. It can be a thickened, red, scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate or can present as a fast growing lump.

 

This type of skin cancer is more prevalent in individuals who have had chronic sun exposure. In people over 65 it is responsible for as many deaths as melanoma and is particularly dangerous when it occurs on the lips, ears or nose.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma

 

This is the most common but least dangerous form of skin cancer. It grows slowly, usually on the head, neck and upper torso. It may appear as a lump or dry, scaly area. It maybe red, pale or pearly in colour. As it grows, it may ulcerate or appear like a sore that fails to completely heal or one that does heal but then breaks down again. Some forms of BCC are more aggressive than others and require wider excision to cure.

Basal Cell Carcinoma Skin Cancer

Remember, if you have any concerns or questions, please contact your doctor. Dr Green would be happy to address any questions you may have. You are able to book an appointment at Sydney City Skin Cancer Clinic (via O'Connell St Clinic) by calling 02 9241 1577, or by clicking the "Book Now" button.