Types of skin
By far the
most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Fortunately, it's also
the least dangerous kind--it tends to grow slowly, and rarely spreads beyond its
original site. Though basal cell carcinoma is seldom life-threatening, if left
untreated it can grow deep beneath the skin and into the underlying tissue and
bone, causing serious damage (particularly if it's located near the eye).
Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most common kind of skin cancer, frequently
appearing on the lips, face, or ears. It sometimes spreads to distant sites,
including lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinoma can become
life threatening if it's not treated.
A third form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is the least common, but its
incidence is increasing rapidly, especially in the Sunbelt states. Malignant
melanoma is also the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If discovered early
enough, it can be completely cured. If it's not treated quickly, however,
malignant melanoma may spread throughout the body and is often deadly.
Other skin growths you should know about
Two other common types of skin growths are moles and keratoses.
Moles are clusters of heavily pigmented skin cells, either flat or raised above
the skin surface. While most pose no danger, some-particularly large moles
present at birth, or those with mottled colors and poorly defined borders-may
develop into malignant melanoma. Moles are frequently removed for cosmetic
reasons, or because they're constantly irritated by clothing or jewelry (which
can sometimes cause pre-cancerous changes).
Solar or actinic keratoses are rough, red or brown, scaly patches on the skin.
They are usually found on areas exposed to the sun, and sometimes develop into
squamous cell cancer.