Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer which form in the upper and middle layers of the epidermis. They are considered to be "non-melanoma” skin cancers.
Basal cell carcinoma does not spread to other areas of the body (metastasize) whereas squamous cell carcinoma has a small risk of metastasis in high-risk tumors. It is not uncommon for people over the age of 70 to develop a basal cell carcinoma regardless of sun exposure. Squamous cell cancer is caused by sun exposure in over 95% of cases. They normally start out as precancerous actinic keratoses that look like scaly rough pink spots that are slightly sensitive on the face and other areas that are frequently exposed to the sun.
Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer with approximately 80,000 new cases diagnosed each year. It is the most aggressive form of skin cancer, metastasizing frequently when the cancer is deeper than 1mm beneath the skin. Melanoma begins in the melanocytes which are cells that make pigment and are located at the base of the epidermis. These cells are also located in the brain, brainstem, and eyes. Melanoma risk is high for those who burn easily, those who have a family history of melanoma, and those who have a lot of moles. Dysplastic Nevus Syndrome is a condition where a person has many irregularly shaped large moles all over their body, and these people have a very high risk of melanoma. Signs of possible melanoma include a new mole that looks abnormal or an existing mole that begins to change in color or size.
A melanoma can be a flat or raised lesion on the skin. Usually, a melanoma mole is darkly pigmented, irregularly pigmented, and/or has very irregular borders. There is one type of melanoma that is pink and looks like a pimple called amelanotic melanoma. This type of melanoma usually presents itself as looking as a pimple or bug bite that just won't heal. These can be the most dangerous types of skin cancer, as client's don't assume it to be melanoma and wait too long before seeking treatment.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body. Your chances of developing skin cancer are greatest in areas that are exposed to the sun, so it is imperative to apply sunscreen daily. At Retief Skin Center, we recommend that everyone wear a daily moisturizer with a physical sunscreen of 30-45 SPF on their face and neck only. When you are out in the sun for extended periods of time (more than two hours), reapply your sunscreen every two to three hours. For the body, we recommend a sunscreen with an SPF of 15-30, depending on how easily you burn.