Skin Cancer Guide

Skin Cancer Guide

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

This is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for about 90 percent of skin cancers diagnosed each year. It has the lowest risk of metastasis and is slow to spread, but it still needs to be treated immediately. Because the tumor grows contiguously, once it is excised, the recurrence risk is very low. BCC is 95 to 100 percent curable when caught early.What to look for: The classic basal cell carcinoma is a pearly pink bump, slightly elevated and smooth, but sometimes BCC can show up as a smooth, flat, white-pink scar (these are more aggressive) or a brown patch that resembles a freckle. BCC can be a dry, crusty spot, or it can be ulcerated and tend to bleed. Most are located on the face and neck — sun-exposed areas.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

This is the second most common skin cancer, and, like basal cell carcinoma, it is usually located on sun-exposed areas. It also tends to stay localized but may spread, and its metastasis is much faster than that of BCC.

What to look for: Pre-cancerous lesions for squamous cell carcinoma are called “actinic keratoses” (AKs). They look like a red or brown patch of sun damage; a suspicious area tends to be crusty and dry, and it may bleed. Though these lesions may not become cancerous, they could very well be precursors of SCC. If treated early, however, AKs can be eliminated before becoming skin cancer.


Check your skin

Once a month, examine your skin, head to toe, to see if anything unusual has developed. The best time to do a skin self-exam is when you get out of the shower, as you’re drying yourself off in the bathroom.