What You Should Know About Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers: Skin Cancer Awareness Month

woman holding get checked text

In honor of Skin Cancer Awareness month, we wanted to shine a light on the several types of nonmelanoma skin cancers that affect people every year. According to the report Advanced Basal Cell Carcinoma: Epidemiology and Therapeutic Innovations, more than 5.4 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer were treated in the U.S. in 2012 alone.

While melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, with the number of deaths expected to increase by nearly 5 percent this year, nonmelanoma skin cancer is still a great concern.

Types of Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers:

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common form of skin cancer with approximately 3.6 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. alone each year. This slow-growing skin cancer is most often caused by excess exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanning beds.

It can look like red patches, open sores, scars or growths with rolled edges or those which are slightly elevated. It varies from person to person, so it’s best to get a dermatologist to take a look at any new spots or skin discoloration. The good news is, when caught and treated early, basal cell carcinoma is curable.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

 Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer with an estimated 1.8 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. every year. It’s caused by exposure to UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. According to the report Association of lifetime indoor tanning and subsequent risk of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma, those who have ever tanned indoors have a 83 percent increased risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma. If we haven’t said it before, and we have, stay out of tanning beds. Period.

It appears as scaly red patches, rough, thickened or wart-like skin, open sores, or raised growths with depressions in the center. The majority of these cases, when addressed early, can be treated. Without treatment, they can spread to other parts of the body.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Also called neuroendocrine carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma is a rarer form of skin cancer that most often develops on older people. There’s an estimated one case per 130,000 people in the U.S. It’s aggressive, spreading within only two-to-three years after diagnosis. Merkel cell carcinoma is not as obvious as other forms of skin cancer. It appears like a pimple-like lump or even skin that’s red, purple or blue in color. What makes them noticeable is their growth speed. If left untreated, is said to be three to five times deadlier than melanoma. But, there’s hope. If detected early, Merkel cell carcinoma can be treated successfully.

Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma

As one of the several types of lymphoma collectively called non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cutaneous T-cell lymphoma is a rare type of skin cancer that occurs when T cells develop abnormalities that make them attack the skin. T cells are part of your immune system that help your body fight germs. In those with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, there’s a DNA mutation that makes the body create abnormal cells instead of healthy ones.

It can appear on the skin as round patches of raised or scaly skin, or those which are lighter in color. It may also manifest as lumps or enlarged lymph nodes, hair loss, rash-like redness that is very itchy, or a thickening of the skin particularly on the palms or soles of the feet. There is still a lot to be uncovered about this form of skin cancer. That’s why early detection is so important.

Kaposi Sarcoma

Unlike the other types f nonmelanoma skin cancer, Kaposi sarcoma is caused by an infection from the rare Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. It appears as flat lesions, raise plaques, or bumpy nodules which are red, brown, or purple in color. These are most often found in the lining of the mouth, nose, and throat, in the lymph nodes, or other organs. At this time, there is no known cure of Kaposi sarcoma. The therapy that exists helps with symptoms and to slow its progression.

The most important step you can take to avoid becoming a victim of any skin cancer is to make sun safe decisions every day and to regularly check your skin for abnormal spots and marks. And be sure to talk to your dermatologist if you have any concerns at all.

For questions about skin cancer and what you can do to prevent or treat it, schedule an appointment with The Derm Group by calling 973.571.2121.