There are three basic forms of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Anyone can be diagnosed with cancer at any age. Doctors link these forms of cancer to overexposure to the sun. Tanning booths can also increase your risk, as can exposure to radiation or high altitude. Because each type of skin cancer has a different look, effect and treatment, it is important to alert your physician if you notice unusual changes in the size and shape of spots, the coloration of your skin or the sensitivity and comfort of your body. Time is of the essence, and when caught early, many forms of skin cancer can be successfully treated.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form of skin cancer. It appears as an irregularly shaped blemish or blister that crusts over or bleeds without healing. In some cases, this cancer can cause the lashes of the eyelids to fall out. While this form of cancer is rarely life threatening, failure to treat it in a timely manner can cause serious damage to your tissue and bones.
Squamous cell carcinoma often originates on the face and surrounding areas. It can appear as waxy or shiny patches or as small red or white bumps on the skin. If not treated, it can spread to the internal organs and become a life threatening condition.
Malignant melanoma is by far the deadliest form of skin cancer. This form of cancer generally begins within moles. While it occurs less frequently than the other forms of skin cancer, it is more dangerous because, if not treated quickly, it can spread throughout the entire body, proving fatal.
In situations where the cancer is relatively small, your doctor will surgically excise the cancerous flesh and then reconstruct the area. In more extreme cases, where the cancer is larger or has spread to other areas of the body, measures such as cryosurgery (where the cancer is frozen) or radiation therapy may be recommended. In addition, chemotherapy and Mohs surgery (in which the cancer is taken off in layers) have been successful in eradicating cancerous cells. The important thing is to contact your doctor immediately for a consultation if you feel that you are showing symptoms of any of these conditions. After surgery, it is important to carefully check your skin regularly for recurrences, and you should visit your doctor regularly for routine exams.