Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and it is estimated that 2 million people are diagnosed with one or more cases of skin cancer each year. There are two major types of non-melanoma skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Let's take a look at each.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer is the more common of the two major types, with 2.8 million cases of BCC being diagnosed annually in the U.S. Although rarely fatal, BCCs must be removed from the body, as the larger they grow the more disfiguring they can become.
Basal cell carcinomas appear on the epidermis as discolored growths that weren't always there, bleed easily, and do not heal well. These growths are generally slow growing, and are pearly, waxy, white, light pink, flesh, or brown in color.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer, with approximately 700,000 cases diagnosed each year in the U.S., resulting in approximately 2,500 deaths. As with BCCs, SCCs must be removed from the body in order to keep them from spreading to other locations including the organs.
Squamous cell carcinomas appear on the skin as a bump that resembles a mole, yet continues to grow, has a rough, scaly surface, and/or contains reddish colored spots or patches. In addition, SCCs can develop in existing moles, warts, or other lesions, so any changes you notice in these areas should be checked by a doctor right away.
Avoiding Skin Cancer
It is estimated that 90% of BCCs and SCCs are caused by, or associated with, exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and from tanning beds. In order to avoid exposure to UV rays, and therefore reduce your risk of developing basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, take precautions against sun exposure. You can do this by:
- Wearing sunscreen daily
- Wearing sunscreen year-round, even during the winter
- Protecting your skin with hats, long sleeve shirts, pants, etc.
- Avoiding use of tanning beds
- Regularly checking your skin for anything resembling a developing basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma
- Getting regular medical checkups if you have been diagnosed with skin cancer in the past, or have risk factors for developing skin cancer
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