You might associate skin cancer with raised and growing moles, sores that won’t heal, or itchy, tender, painful spots on the body, but how does skin cancer start? Since early detection is so important in determining the prognosis for a skin cancer diagnosis, it’s important to be aware of how the three most common types of skin cancer appear in their earliest stages.
Detecting Skin Cancer Early: What to Look For
Although there’s no substitute for regular skin cancer screenings, those who are on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms have the best chance of catching skin cancer as soon as it starts:
Basal Cell Skin Cancer often presents as:
- An open sore that refuses to heal
- A red patch or an area that looks irritated
- A shiny bump that may be clear, white, pink, or red
- A pink growth with a raised edge and a crusted indentation
- A flat and waxy scar-like area with undefined borders
Squamous Cell Skin Cancer usually starts as:
- A scaly patch that may crust or bleed
- An open sore that bleeds or crusts but refuses to heal
- A wart-like growth that crusts and may occasionally bleed
- An elevated, occasionally-bleeding growth with a depressed center
Certain conditions, including Actinic keratosis—a flesh-colored scaly patch—and Bowen disease—a reddish patch—may develop into full-blown squamous cell skin cancer over time. Early treatment is recommended in both cases.
Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is most easily detected with the ABCDE method, described here:
- Asymmetry: Moles with an irregular shape may be cancerous, especially if the irregularity is new.
- Border: Uneven or notched edges are more likely to be found in cancerous moles.
- Color: Uneven coloring is more likely to be found in cancerous moles than in non-cancerous moles.
- Diameter: If the mole grows to a diameter of more than 6 mm, it should be checked out.
- Evolving or Elevation: Changes in size or shape should always be examined. Elevated moles are more likely to be cancerous than smaller moles.
Where Does Skin Cancer Start?
Skin cancer may start anywhere. However, it is most commonly found on the parts of the skin that see the most sun exposure, including:
On a more scientific level, it’s important to note that skin cancer starts in your skin’s top layer, the epidermis. The epidermis includes squamous cells, which compose the skin’s inner lining, basal cells, which produce new skin cells, and melanocytes, which produce the skin’s colors.
Consider Image-Guided SRT for Common Skin Cancer
If you receive a common skin cancer diagnosis, ask your doctor if Image-Guided Superficial Radiotherapy (Image-Guided SRT) is right for you. Image-Guided SRT is as effective as Mohs surgery, but it does not carry the risk of surgical scarring. Find out how it works today.