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Skin Cancer

Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, Questions & Related Topics

Key Points

  • The article provides an overview of skin cancer, detailing the symptoms, causes, prevention methods, and treatment options.
  • The three common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, each with distinctive symptoms such as scabbed sores, waxy bumps, and large brown spots.
  • Skin cancer can be caused by various factors including overexposure to UV light, exposure to toxic chemicals, certain skin traits, genetic factors, and a weakened immune system.
  • Preventive measures against skin cancer include avoiding sun during peak hours, refraining from tanning, and regular health checkups.
  • The treatment options for skin cancer range from surgery and radiation to chemotherapy and participation in clinical trials.

Possible Symptoms for Skin Cancer

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma

There are several different types of skin cancer, and one of the more common types is basal cell carcinoma. It usually causes symptoms that appear on the face or neck, as well as other areas that are often exposed to the sun.[1] The symptoms of basal cell carcinoma on the skin can include scabbed, bleeding sores that heal and then come back, waxy bumps, or flat lesions that may look like scars.

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Another common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. It usually occurs in sun-exposed areas, although those with darker skin may be more likely to develop it in areas not often exposed to the sun.[1] Symptoms include hard, red nodules on the skin or lesions with crusted or scaly surfaces.

3. Melanoma

Melanoma is one of the most well-known and common types of skin cancer. It can develop anywhere on the body on people with normal skin, including areas that aren’t exposed to the sun, and it can also develop inside a mole.[2] The symptoms of melanoma include big, brown spots on the skin with dark speckles; moles that begin to change in size, color, or that begin to bleed; lesions on the skin that are itchy; oddly colored lesions that may be red, blue, white, etc.; lesions with borders that spread; or dark lesions that appear on parts of your body like your palms, toes, fingertips, the soles of your feet, or on mucous membranes.

Top 5 Causes of Skin Cancer

1. Exposure to UV Light

Often, overexposure to UV light can lead to certain types of skin cancer. This can occur when a person is overexposed to sunlight that causes sunburn, or to the light used in a tanning bed. A history of sunburns as a child is a risk factor for skin cancer.[1] However, not all types of skin cancer are caused by exposure to sunlight.

2. Exposure to Toxic Chemicals

Exposure to toxic chemicals can also increase your risk of skin cancer, just as it can with other cancers. If you have ever been exposed to radiation treatment, especially for a skin condition, this can also be a serious risk factor for skin cancer.

3. Skin Variables

Having fairer skin is a risk factor because you have less natural protection against UV rays.[1] Those who have lots of moles on their skin are also at a higher risk, as are people who have precancerous skin lesions. However, anyone can develop skin cancer.

4. Heredity

A history of skin cancer in your family is also a strong indicator of risk, although you can develop it without the hereditary link. Age can also increase your risk of skin cancer, and people over 50 years old are more likely to develop it.[3]

5. Conditions

Those who have already had skin cancer in the past are at risk for developing it again. Individuals with weakened immune systems, either caused by a condition or for some other reason, also experience increased risk.[1]

3 Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer

1. Avoid the Sun

Although it is not necessary to avoid the sun entirely, avoiding the hottest parts of the day where the sun is at its peak can help prevent skin cancer. If you do have to go outside during these times, wear clothing that will protect your skin. Also, always wear sunscreen in order to avoid burns; this should be a year-round part of your skin care regimen whenever you’re planning to go outside.

2. Don’t Tan

If you like to tan and you have done it frequently, it’s probably a good idea that you avoid this activity from now on. Tanning beds increase your likelihood of developing skin cancer, and even tanning in the sunlight can be risky. This is especially true if you are naturally fair-skinned, but anyone who does not protect their skin can develop skin cancer as a result of tanning.

3. Get Regular Checkups

Make sure to consistently check yourself for signs of skin cancer. If you have lots of moles, freckles, birthmarks, or other areas on your skin, make sure you know what they look like so you will notice any changes. Also, make regular appointments to have your skin checked.

Possible Skin Cancer Treatment Options

1. Surgery

Surgery is one of the most common treatments for skin cancer, especially if the area, mole, lesion, or other formation can be removed.[4] Freezing is another early form of cancer treatment, especially for small areas.

2. Radiation and Chemotherapy

Like other types of cancer, radiation or chemotherapy might be necessary if it cannot be completely removed through surgical means. Either drugs or beams of radiation will be used to try and kill the cancer cells.

3. Clinical Trials

New medications, supplements, inventions, and treatments are being tested every day, and in some cases, you might find one of these available to individuals with skin cancer as a clinical trial. It is less expensive than the other options listed, but because the treatment is still in its trial phase, it is hard to know if it will be successful.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Skin Cancer

  • How long has it been since you noticed the changes in your skin?
  • Do you have any moles or lesions that itch or bleed?
  • Have you ever experienced overexposure to the sun, especially as a child?
  • Do you like to tan?
  • Has anyone in your family suffered from skin cancer?

Skin Cancer May Also be Known as:

  • Melanoma
  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Kaposi sarcoma (A less common type of skin cancer)
  • Merkel cell carcinoma (A less common type of skin cancer)
  • Sebaceous gland carcinoma (A less common type of skin cancer)


Frequently asked questions

  • What are the common types of skin cancer?

    The common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
  • What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

    Symptoms of skin cancer can include scabbed, bleeding sores, waxy bumps, flat lesions, hard red nodules, and large brown spots with dark speckles.
  • What causes skin cancer?

    Skin cancer can be caused by overexposure to UV light, exposure to toxic chemicals, certain skin traits like fair skin and numerous moles, genetic factors, and a weakened immune system.
  • How can skin cancer be prevented?

    Preventive measures against skin cancer include avoiding sun during peak hours, refraining from tanning, and regular health checkups.
  • What are the treatment options for skin cancer?

    Treatment options for skin cancer include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and participation in clinical trials.
  • What questions might a doctor ask about skin cancer?

    A doctor may ask about changes in your skin, if you have itchy or bleeding moles or lesions, your exposure to the sun, your tanning habits, and your family history of skin cancer.
  • Can heredity play a role in skin cancer?

    Yes, heredity can play a role in the development of skin cancer.
  • Can regular checkups help in the early detection of skin cancer?

    Yes, regular checkups can help in the early detection and treatment of skin cancer.

Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

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