Skin cancer and types of skin cancer

By | July 9, 2015

Tawny Willoughby used a tanning bed 4 to 5 times a week in high school. Now, at 27, she's dealing with painful skin-cancer treatments. This selfie of Willoughby (right), posted last month to Facebook, has been shared almost 50,000 times.

As cancer may affect any part of the body same way it can affect skin as well.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is very common. It is usually low grade cancerous that is it has malignant growth in the skin. It gets started from cells that start as normal skin cells and then changes and transforms into those which have the potential to reproduce in an out of control manner. Unlike other types of cancer, the vast majority of the skin cancers do not have potential to spread in to other parts of the body (metastasize) and it threaten your life.

There are two major types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (the most common) and squamous cell carcinoma (the second most common). Melanoma is also a form of skin cancer but is far less common, though more dangerous, than the other two varieties.

Who treats skin cancer?

A doctor who specializes in skin disorders and diseases is called dermatologist. So a dermatologist treats skin cancer.

What are the different types of skin cancer?

Different types of skin cancer are listed below:

Here are the skin cancer types:

  • Basal cell carcinoma.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Merkel cell carcinoma.
  • Fibroxanthoma.
  • cutaneous lymphoma.
  • dermatofibrosarcoma
  • Basal cell carcinoma:

types of skin cancer

It is the most commonly occurring skin cancer and this type of cancer occurs in humans. Almost over one million new cases of this type of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S every year. Almost there are several different types of basal cell carcinoma, which include the superficial type, the least worrisome variety. It has one the nodular type, which is the most common.  Another subtype is the morpheaform, which is the most challenging to treat and cure because these tumors most often grow into the surrounding tissue like infiltrate without a well defined border.

  • Squamous cell carcinomaaccounts for about 20% of all skin cancers but is more common in immunosuppressed people. In most instances, its biologic behavior is much like basal cell carcinoma, with minimal chance of spread. However, some of these tumors can act in an aggressive fashion and can even metastasize and cause death.
  • Less common skin cancers include melanoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, atypical fibroxanthoma, cutaneous lymphoma, and dermatofibrosarcoma.
  • Merkel cell carcinoma:

This is another type of skin cancer and is very less common.

  • Fibroxanthoma:

This is another type of skin cancer and is very less common.

  • Cutaneous lymphoma:

This is another type of skin cancer and is very less common. 

  • Dermatofibrosarcoma:

This is another type of skin cancer and is very less common.

Causes of skin cancer:

The exact cause of skin cancer is not known. It appears that basal cell cancers arise from basaloid cells in the upper layer of the skin. Uncontrolled growth of these cells is regulated by other factors in the skin. When that regulation is lost, skin cancer cells begin to grow into tumors.

In squamous cell cancers, the tumors arise from a normal cell in the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. As with basal cell cancers, these cells are prevented from growing wildly by genetically controlled factors. When there is an alteration in the genes that regulate these cells, the control is lost and skin cancers start to grow. In many instances, the genes are altered by sunlight exposure.

Risk factors for skin cancer:

The most common risk factors for skin cancer are as follows.

  • Ultraviolet light exposure, either from the sun or from tanning beds: Fair-skinned individuals with a history of repeated sunburns, those with hazel or blue eyes, and people with blond or red hair are particularly vulnerable. The problem is worse in areas of high altitude or near the equator where sunlight exposure is more intense.
  • A chronically suppressed immune system (immunosuppression) from underlying diseases such as HIV infection or cancer, or from some medications such as prednisone or chemotherapy
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation (X-rays) or chemicals known to predispose to cancer such as arsenic
  • Certain types of wart virus infections
  • People who have a history of one skin cancer have a 20% chance of developing a second skin cancer in the next two years.


Symptoms of skin cancer:

Most basal cell carcinomas have few if any symptoms. Squamous cell carcinomas may be painful. Both types of skin cancer may appear as a sore that will not heal. There is often a slowly growing bump on the skin that may bleed after minor trauma. Basal cell carcinomas may have a pearly color while squamous cell carcinomas may have a thick scale on the surface. Both may have raised edges and a central ulceration

Diagnosis of skin cancer:

The skin examination by a dermatologist is the way by which to get a definitive diagnosis of skin cancer. In most of the cases, appearance alone is sufficient to make the diagnosis of skin cancer.

A skin biopsy is usually used to confirm a suspicion of skin cancer. It is performed by numbing the area under tumor with a local anesthetic like as lidocaine. Small portion of the tumor is then sliced away and is then sent for examination by a pathologist, who will examine the tissue under the microscope and it renders a diagnosis based on the characteristics of the formed tumor. 

Treatment of skin cancer:

There are many treatment options for cure and treatment of various types of skin cancer. Before deciding which treatment option to starts with or what treatment option to opt your doctor more specifically a dermatologist considers the following facts:

  • At what part or portion of the skin the skin cancer appears.
  • Is skin cancer aggressive or not.
  • At which stage of stage cancer you are passing through.
  • What is the overall general health of the patient?

There are many effective means, ways and methods of treating skin cancer. Moreover the choice of therapy also depends on the location and also on the size of the tumor. Furthermore the microscopic characteristics of the skin cancer and the general health of the patient also determine the choice of treatment method.


  • Destruction by electrodessication and curettage (EDC):

The area where tumor grows is numbed with a local anesthetic and it is scraped off with the sharp instrument called as curette. The wound which is formed base is cauterized with an electric needle which is very thin and sharp . As like many other treatments methods which have some advantages as well as some disadvantages, this method of treatment also have some disadvantages and advantages. Its advantage of using this method is that it is very fast and easy. Moreover it is relatively inexpensive. Also it has some disadvantages. Its disadvantages include the formation of scar which is often somewhat unsightly, and the recurrence rate is as high as 15 percent.

  • Surgical excision:

The area which is present around the tumor is numbed with the local anesthetic. A football shaped portion of the tissues including the tumor is then removed and it is then the wound edges are closed with sutures. In case of very big tumors, skin grafts or flaps are needed to close this defect. Advantages of this form of treatment are that there is a greater than 90 percent cure rate, the surgical specimen can be examined in order to be sure that the whole tumor has been successfully removed, and the scar which was produced or formed is usually more cosmetically acceptable than of the EDC procedure. It is very more complicated procedure and it is more expensive than EDC treatment method.

  • Mohs micrographic surgery:

The site or area for skin cancer is locally anesthetized and the surgeon or doctor removes the visible tumor with a small margin of normal tissue. The tissues are evaluated under a microscope and those areas that demonstrate residual microscopic tumor involvement are re excised and the margins are then re examined. The cycle continues until no further tumor is observed or seen. This is the more complicated and expensive option is the treatment of choice for tumors where normal tissue preservation is very important and vital, where the tumor margins are more poorly defined, in case of tumors that have been previously treated and they have recurred, and in certain high risk tumors.


Almost 10 to15 treatment sessions deliver a relatively high dose of radiation to the tumor and it is undergone a small surrounding skin area. Such form of treatment is very useful in those patients who are not candidates for any surgical procedure. Moreover, advantage of radiation therapy is that there is no cutting involved. Its disadvantage of this is that it is expensive. It has alternative and they are that the treated area cannot be tested to be sure whole tumor is gone and radiation scars formed look worset over time. This is because of the reason it is usually reserved for the elderly patients

Statistics of skin cancer:

The statistics for skin cancer includes in case of males patients in England have reported 5440 cases. Crude rate for male patients is 20.8

Survival rate of skin cancer: 

For the early stage melanoma which is only located up to near where it started, the five year survival rate is 98 percent. The five year survival rates for melanoma which has spread to the nearby lymph nodes and to some other parts of the body are 63 percent and 16 percent respectively.


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