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What are the Different Types of Skin Cancer?

By Patti Kate
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Some skin cancers are more common than others, but three of the most commonly diagnosed types are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma. Kaposi's sarcoma is a rarely-seen type of skin cancer. There are other rare types of skin cancer, some of which include cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).

Melanoma is a very serious form of skin cancer that typically manifests in the form of a raised mole that resembles a birthmark. Quite often, the mole will have raised edges and more than one color. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, on the other hand, are not as aggressive as melanoma and can be treated effectively if caught in their early stages. Some of the lesions associated with these types of skin cancer may be scaly and itchy.

MCC is one of the rarest types of skin cancer. The disease afflicts both men and women, and most patients are in their late 50s and early 60s when first diagnosed. A most destructive form of skin cancer, MCC produces lumps on the skin that vary in color. In most cases, the bumps or lesions on the skin produce minor pain.

White blood cells known as T-cell lymphocytes can sometimes turn into cancer. This form of skin cancer is known as cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL). Most individuals who are afflicted by this type of skin cancer are elderly. Similar to other types of skin cancer, CTCL often appears as red patches that easily flake and peel or cause pain and irritation. Many patients who are diagnosed with this form of skin cancer are treated with chemotherapy drugs.

Another uncommon type of skin cancer is called sebaceous gland carcinoma (SGC). This skin cancer typically produces lesions around the eyelid that may bleed. Elderly women develop this skin cancer more often than men. Radiation is the most common treatment for this type of skin cancer. In more aggressive cases, surgery followed by radiation is recommended.

Many types of skin cancer develop on the face and nose more than other body parts. Individuals who do not use a protective sunscreen during long periods of sun exposure may risk developing nose cancer. This type of skin cancer commonly causes blisters and scabs that often bleed or can become infected. Those who notice any unusual contusions or bumps on the nose should consult with a physician.

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Discussion Comments

By KoiwiGal — On Jun 01, 2012

Skin cancer is becoming more and more common as the kids who were exposed to too much radiation when the ozone layer was thinner grow older and start feeling the effects of the damage. The best way to prevent skin cancer is to be proactive about preventing damage.

Try not to go outside during the hottest parts of the day, and wear sunscreen all year around (even on cloudy days radiation can damage your skin).

Wear sunglasses with the ability to block radiation as well, since skin cancer can even occur on iris of the eye.

This is particularly important for kids, since skin damage when you're young will affect you for years to come.

By lluviaporos — On May 31, 2012

@croydon - You've got to be reasonably sure that there's a problem though, to go from doctor to doctor asking for more tests. There are a lot of different kinds of skin cancers and there are a lot of odd shaped freckles in the world.

One of the best ways to have peace of mind about your skin if you think you might develop skin cancer, is to get a mole map made.

You go in and consult with a skin specialist who asks about your history and age and so forth, and then they will go over all your skin and make photos and notes of each mark, particularly those which are large enough.

The doctor will tell you when you need to come back, probably in a couple of years, but possibly sooner if you have any moles that look suspicious. When you come back they will measure them again and make sure they haven't grown.

This way, you've got a real record of what's going on with your skin rather than just guessing at whether that mole has gotten bigger.

If you've got skin cancer in your family, it's one of the best ways to be sure that you'll be OK.

By croydon — On May 31, 2012

If you suspect you have a skin cancer (you've compared the mark to pictures of skin cancer and so forth) and you take it to the doctor but they won't test it, take it to get another opinion. In fact, take it to get as many opinions as you need, until they take a sample for testing.

My mother had what looked like a skin cancer on her arm and she had two doctors tell her that it wasn't one and that at most she should monitor it. Finally, after a few years, she asked another one and he said they would test it, even though it was probably nothing.

Turns out it was a melanoma. Which is the kind of cancer that kills most often. I'll never forget her voice on the phone when she told me. They had to remove a chunk from her arm that was the size of a fist in two surgeries, just to get the not one, but two tumors that were growing underneath the mark that was probably nothing.

At any moment, that cancer could have spread to the rest of her body and killed her. Don't live your life in fear, of course, but don't let the doctors brush you off if you've got a genuine concern either. It might save your life.

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