In the United States, we see over 5 million skin cancer cases a year. This makes it America’s most common form of cancer. Fortunately, it is also one of the most preventable forms of it. May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so Discover Health would like to share some basic facts, warning signs and preventable measures to help raise nationwide understanding. 

Potentially, cancerous skin cells come in three forms, basal cells, squamous cells and merkel cells. The rapid growth of these otherwise healthy cells is what causes tumors to form. As each form of skin cancer is unique from the next, we’ve split all four into individual sections.  

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and the most easily treated. It most commonly appears as a white waxy lump or brown scaly patch on areas with the most sun exposure such as the face and neck. If caught early enough, treatment creams can be used for elimination but surgery may be needed if not addressed swiftly.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. Like basal cell carcinoma, it’s fairly easily treated yet slightly more aggressive. This comes in the form of a skin colored or light red nodule with a rough service. The growth can sometimes resemble a wart or an open bruise with raised, dry edges. Treatment can come in the form of medication but surgery is commonly needed. Very rarely, radiation or chemotherapy are needed. Neither form of these two carcinomas are typically lethal.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare, aggressive form of skin cancer with a high risk for returning and spreading, often within two to three years after initial diagnosis. Commonly appearing on sun-exposed areas of the body, it isn’t nearly as distinctive as other forms of skin cancer. It initially appears as in a pearly like pimple form and will grow at a rapid speed. Treatment for this form can be very difficult once it has spread. Catching merkel cell carcinoma early is imperative to surviving. 

Melanoma

Melanoma is not as common as basal or squamous cell carcinoma but is more concerning due to its potential to grow and spread at a fast rate. It can appear anywhere on the body and usually comes in the form of a new unusual growth or a change in an existing mole. Depending on how early it is caught, treatment ranges from medication to surgery to radiation and possibly even chemotherapy.

Prevention

Everyone loves the sunshine but like anything, too much of it can be a bad thing. Keep yourself protected as much as you can from over-exposure. Sunblock can be crucial to skin cancer prevention in any stage of life. Don’t get sunburned and avoid tanning in any form.

A common thread through all these forms of skin cancer is recognizing it as early as possible and that cannot be stressed enough. If you are concerned about any growth on your body, consult a doctor immediately. 

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