Not all skin cancer is equal. There are different types of skin cancer, and you may already be familiar with the two most common ones: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. According to the American Cancer Society, over 5 million cases of basal cell and squamous cell cancers are diagnosed every year. Though basal cell carcinoma is responsible for nearly 80% of these cases, squamous cell carcinoma deserves to be known and understood as well. All skin cancers are more successfully treated if caught early. In terms of causes and symptoms, do you know the differences between basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas?
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma begins in the basal cells. These are the cells within the skin that create new skin cells after old ones die. Malignancy occurs when one of the basal cells experiences a DNA mutation. The cause has been primarily linked to long-term exposure to sunlight or UV radiation in tanning beds. BCC often appears on the face, and senior citizens are the most common age group to be diagnosed.
Basal cell carcinoma can be mistaken for non-cancerous conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema. This abnormal, uncontrolled growth on the skin can appear like an open sore, red patch of skin, a shiny bump or scar. Basal cell carcinomas typically do not spread, but they can be disfiguring if not treated appropriately.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the flat squamous cells within the outer layer of the skin. They are skin cells found throughout your entire body. Squamous cell carcinoma is not life-threatening, but they are more likely to grow and spread deeper into the skin compared to basal cell carcinoma. For this reason, SCC is considered an aggressive form of skin cancer.
Like BCC, squamous cell carcinoma develops after prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning bed/lamps. However, patients who are fair skinned, have a history of sunburn, a low immune system or past precancerous skin lesions are at greater risk for SCC.
The warning signs of squamous cell carcinoma include a scaly, irritated area of skin, or an elevated growth (similar to a wart). A skin growth that changes or a skin wound that won’t heal should be evaluated and/or biopsied for SCC.
Treating Your Skin Cancer
The good news is that both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are highly treatable. We urge patients to participate in a yearly skin check so that skin cancers are caught and treated at their earliest stage. At Olansky Dermatology, we proudly offer some of the most advanced skin cancer treatments available, including a highly successful procedure known as Mohs Surgery. Call today to schedule your skin check!