What are the differences between basal, squamous, and melanoma skin cancers?

Expert Answers

DanielSiegelMD (Physician - Dermatology (Verified) ) - 05 / 11 / 2012

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) (http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/basal-cell-carcinoma) is the most common type of skin cancer. It can appear as a shiny translucent or pearly nodule, a sore that continuously heals and then re-opens, a pink slightly elevated growth, reddish irritated patches of skin, or a waxy scar. Most BCCs appear on skin with a history of exposure to the sun, such as the face, scalp, neck, hands and arms. BCC often grows slowly, but dermatologists encourage early diagnosis and treatment to prevent extensive damage to surrounding tissue.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) (http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/squamous-cell-carcinoma) most often appears as a crusted or scaly area of skin with a red inflamed base that resembles a growing tumor, non-healing ulcer, or crusted-over patch of skin. While most commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the body, it can develop anywhere. SCC may arise from actinic keratoses (AKs), which are dry, scaly lesions that may be skin-colored, reddish-brown or yellowish-black. SCC requires early treatment to prevent spreading.

Melanoma (http://www.aad.org/skin-conditions/dermatology-a-to-z/melanoma) is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanoma can begin in a mole or appear as a new skin growth on the skin. When examining your skin (http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/understanding-skin-cancer/how-do-i-check-my-skin/how-to-perform-a-self-exam/how-to-perform-a-self-exam), check your moles or pigmented spots for the ABCDEs: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color varies, and Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, and Evolution (http://www.aad.org/spot-skin-cancer/understanding-skin-cancer/how-do-i-check-my-skin/what-to-look-for/what-to-look-for). If you notice a mole that differs from others, or one that changes, bleeds, or itches, see a dermatologist.
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