Welcome on our site! This webpage is not meant to serve as a substitute for your visit at the doctor`s office.
We want to offer you some general informations on the most common types of skin cancers and show pictures of some typical cases.
This way you can compare your findings on the skin with our pictures.
We encourage you, in case of suspect or uncertain findings, not to wait, but see an experienced dermatologist soon as to be examined an diagnosed early enough for a successful treatment.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
Persons with freckles, with a fair skin type, with red hair or with numerous moles (more than 50) are known to have an increased risk of developing skin cancer.
In these skin types a consequent use of a high UV protection sunscreens is needed.
If you find changes and growth in a spot on your skin you should have it checked by an expert doctor, e.g. a dermatologist.
Freckels and numerous moles (>50)
are a general hint for increased skin cancer risk.
Sun protection is needed. Changes and growth in pigment spots needs special medical attention
Dysplastic nevus or atypical nevus
- irregular look
- an early melanoma could as well look like this
- this spot should be removed
Malignant Skin Tumors
There are three types of skin cancers that are important to know:
- Basal cell carcinoma or Basalioma (BCC) and
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
The melanoma starts to grow from the pigment cells in the skin surface.
It can occur in any surface area of the body. It is found in one of 7000 persons per year in Europe in caucasians, mostly in the middle of their lifetime.
In most cases melanoma is discovered as a flat, growing, irregular shaped pigment spot, often without any symptoms that only later grows in thickness and in some cases perhaps might itch. Bleeding is a late sign.
Note: Half of the early melanomas do not look typical at all in the beginning.
Not all melanomas are dark brown or black.
There are different subtypes of melanomas defined :
The superficial spreading melanoma type (SSM) is the most common type, representing 75% of the cases (see above). As it grows in a thin layer first, it is can be discovered early enough to be removed timely.
The malignant age spot Lentigo maligna melanoma (LMM) is the second most common melanoma subtype. It usually starts on sunexposed body areas as the face or the arms of elderly people. Only late it would start growing deeper into the skin, becoming increasingly dangerous.
The nodular melanoma type (NM) is present in about 5% of the cases. It can look misleading and from the beginning grows deeper into the skin, which makes it more dangerous than the other types.
A melanoma subtype on hands or feet is called acro-lentiginous melanoma (ALM).
It can start under a nail or hide between fingers or toes and therfore is sometimes misdiagnosed as fungal infection or wart for some time and is left growing. This makes it dangerous.
This melanoma type is rare but is the most common type in persons with dark coloured skin.
To diagnose a melanoma is not always simple, so, if there is a doubt, a pigment spot should better be examined by an experiences doctor / dermatologist.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) or Basalioma
The most common type of skin cancer is BCC or Basalioma. It occurs about five times more often than melanoma in caucasian population.
Again the sunburn sensitive skin types are more at risk.
BCCs start from the surface of the body from the cells of the basal cell layer in the skin that is responsible for the regeneration of the skin surface. Sometimes BCC can start deeper down e.g. from a hair bulb.
Important to understand is that cancer can spread by metastazation, but BCC does not do this.
BCC can occur in several places on the body over time and is most often found in elderly people around their seventies, but there are a few starting in their twenties. There are tendencies to develope Basaliomas running in some families.
Basaliomas most commonly are found in the face, but can occur anywhere on the body, preferrably on sun exposed areas, like chest, arms or trunk or even on the scalp.
Most BCCs start as a skin coloured spot, sometimes scaling, sometimes as a little sore, not quite healing away and coming back over month, growing in size very slowly.
The general growth is in size, but not in depth, only when left unattended over years it can grow deep and after 10 years or more reach bones and can invade vital structures.
Most BCCs are pink or scaly, but some are pigmented or some are even black. BCCs are sometimes not easy to distinguish from seborrhoic keratoses (age warts).
There are always some exceptions to this and also some BCCs directly grow deeper down.
There are different types of BCCs described:
There is a solid type, a nodular or cystic type. With these types we can see the actual size, but there is s scleroderma type of BCCs that grows underground, where it is quite difficult to find where it ends when trying to remove it.
Very rarely there are borderline BCC types named metaplastic BCCs that mix with squamous cell carcinoma and have a small risk of metastazation.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin
Mainly SSCs are found in sun exposed skin areas of elderly people. They can occur on forehead, ears, cheeks, lower lip, neck, back of the hands, also in skin folds or on mucous membranes and elsewhere after chronic irritation. An SCC is less common than a BCC, about 20% of it only, but it is similar in how it looks and how it grows.
In most cases it develops from premalignant skin changes that are existing over a long period of time, like actinic keratoses or a leukoplakia. SCC often starts as an irritated, scaly spot or a sore that gradually grows bigger and sometimes forms a little node or wart. A less aggressive but fast growing form is Keratoakanthoma.
Squamous cell carcinoma on the lower lip is known to grow with a more agressive behaviour. Smoking is a risk factor for SCC on the lower lip.
Predominantly in persons with reduced immune response e.g. in organ transplant recipients SCCs are growing in a more aggressive manner.
SCCs are sometimes not easy to distinguish from age warts, so for proper diagnosis an expert doctor is needed.
In some rare cases of SCCs metastasation may occur.