Skin cancer is a malignant growth on the skin which can have many causes. The three most common skin cancers are basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, and melanoma, each of which is named after the type of skin cell from which it arises. Skin cancer generally develops in the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), so a tumor is usually clearly visible. This makes most skin cancers detectable in the early stages. Unlike many other cancers, including those originating in the lung, pancreas, and stomach, only a small minority of those afflicted will actually die of the disease. Skin cancer represents the most commonly diagnosed cancer, surpassing lung, breasts, colorectal and prostate cancer.
There are three most common types of skin cancers. Those are:
Basal cell carcinomas
Basal cell carcinomas are present on sun-exposed areas of the skin, especially the face. They rarely metastasize, and rarely cause death. They are easily treated with surgery or radiation.
Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinomas are common, but much less common than basal cell cancers. They metastasize more frequently than BCCs. Even then, the metastasis rate is quite low, with the exception of SCCs of the lip, ear, and in immunosuppressed patients.
These are the least frequent of the 3 common skin cancers. They frequently metastasize, and are deadly once spread.
Skin Cancer Treatments
Treatment is dependent on type of cancer, location of the cancer, age of the patient, and if the cancer is primary or recurrence. For low-risk disease, radiation therapy, topical chemotherapy and cryotherapy can provide adequate control of the disease; both, however, may have lower overall cure rates than certain type of surgery. Other modalities of treatment such as photodynamic therapy, topical chemotherapy, electrodessication and curettage can be found in the discussions of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In the case of disease that has spread (metastasized), further surgical procedures or chemotherapy may be required.