Skin Cancer Awareness Month Similar Spots Basal Squamous Merkel
Last updated 06/11/2022
Over three million people are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer each year. This is either basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer awareness.
During your first 18 years you can protect your skin from the sun. And lower your risk for certain forms of skin cancer by about 78 percent. Since most skin cancers occur where they are easily spotted by you or someone else early detection is good.
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What is Skin Cancer?
As a result, unrepaired DNA damage brings on these mutations. Most often the damage to DNA in the skin cells is due to ultraviolet (UV) radiation either from the sun or lights used in tanning beds. However, sun exposure doesn’t give an explanation for skin cancers occurring on skin that is not usually exposed to the sun.
This would have to be the result of other factors contributing. For instance, being exposed to toxic substances or having an autoimmune condition. Further, your doctor diagnoses the skin cancer by the cell that is involved.
What are Skin Cancer Symptoms?
Warning signs that are often common:
- Pearly nodule could be shiny
- Reddish growth that has an indention in the center
- Never healing sore
- Skin has a scaly patch
- Patch of skin that is irritated and raised
- Waxy appearance that looks like a scar
Skin Cancer Awareness Risk Factors
- Fair or light skin tone
- Blond or red hair
- Light eye color (blue or green)
- Skin which burns and/or freckles easily
- Having a history of sunburns
- Family and/or personal history of skin cancer
- Frequent sun exposure through work or activities
- Having many moles (nevi)
Similar Spots to Skin Cancers
Other growths can resemble skin cancers. If they cause a concern please check with your dermatologist, this is what they do. Most importantly, get any sore that won't heal or one that is painful checked.
Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Nevi or atypical moles)
Dysplastic Nevi although they are benign, may look different from the common mole. They usually appear during adolescence but can develop at any time. Therefore, they are commonly found on sun exposed skin like the back, chest, abdomen, legs and arms.
Having a family history and having a history of sun exposure can cause these. Hormonal changes during puberty and pregnancy can also contribute to their development. Further, it is rare to have one develop after age 40.
The melanocytes grow in groups instead of being spread evenly across the skin. Those who have many Dysplastic Nevus may be at higher risk for melanoma. Above all, these should be checked by your Dermatologist.
Actinic Keratosis (AK or Solar Keratosis)
Actinic keratosis, meaning from the sun, is a precancerous growth from the epidermis. Regular UV rays can change the keratinocytes causing them to form scaly, rough, crusty and discolored patches.
Commonly found on sun-exposed skin as the face, lips, ears, neck, scalp and arms. People of fair skin, light hair and eye color are higher risk. In short, they most often surface after age 40.
AKs are not life threatening if found early. Left untreated, they may develop into SCCs. In other words, aggressive types on the lips or ears the tumor may spread to lymph nodes and other organs.
Seborrheic Keratosis (SK)
SKs are non-cancerous and can vary in appearance from flat to wart-like. They have a stuck or glued on look to them. For instance, an individual can have hundreds of these lesions.
Seborrheic means "greasy" but they have nothing to do with your sebaceous glands. Furthermore, they present more in Caucasians compared to Asians or African Americans. They are good mimics to skin cancers.
I have had some with many comedo openings and white milia appendages. Having these makes them easy to diagnose from melanomas.
Freckles are the result of sun exposure to sensitive areas with an overproduction of melanin. They have flat surfaces and are darker than flesh-tone. For example, they are seen more in those with red hair or pale skin.
Therefore, the lesions are both genetic and from the environment. Freckles are usually found as clusters on your face, shoulders and arms but could possibly be down your legs. With sun exposure these even become darker.
Skin Cancer Awareness Basal, Squamous and Merkel
Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC)
Basal Cell Carcinomas are more common. They show on sun exposed areas such as the face, neck, scalp and backs of hands. Furthermore, BCC are caused by repeated sun exposure, especially in people with fair skin, light hair and eye color.
These cells are found in the basal (deepest) layer of the epidermis. Most importantly this skin cancer rarely spreads and is slow growing.
However, BCC can cause destruction of the skin around it. Above all, discovering these early is important to receive treatment. They don’t just go away. Skin cancers can bleed easily if bumped or rubbed.
BCC warning signs may be:
- An open sore
- A reddish scale
- A lump or nodule
- May look like a scar or scratch
Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC)
Squamous Cell Carcinomas are the second most common skin cancer form. These can metastasize but not as aggressively as melanomas.
Years ago, my dad thought he had a pimple on his left cheek. He was raised on a farm and mostly outdoors as a child (remember those days?). The pimple was actually a SCC. My dad was lucky to detect this early and had it removed by his dermatologist.
These are also found on sun exposed skin like the face, neck, ears, scalp and backs of hands. SCCs can look almost flat or rough. In addition, these can bleed easily also. They grow and don’t go away.
SCCs appear in the epidermal (upper layer) and mucous membranes (lips and mouth). Likewise, those with fair skin, light hair and eye color and a regular history of sun exposure are at risk.
SCC warning signs may be:
- Firm rough lump
- Scaly patch
If left untreated, they can destroy deeper tissue or spread. The larger the tumor becomes; the more skin needs to be removed. And then this needs to be repaired.
Bowen’s disease is actually an early form of Squamous cell carcinoma. It develops in the epidermis and stays there in its original location, so it’s known as SCC in situ.
The lesion can usually present as red, scaly and crusty. Likewise, it could resemble other conditions like eczema or psoriasis.
More people notice a single lesion at first. However, around 10 to 20 percent have multiple lesions occur. Lesions typically are discovered on your head or neck.
Bowen’s Disease warning signs are:
- Red scaling, this could also be white or yellow
- With all skin tones, moist pinkness or redness below the scales
- No bleeding in the area
- Occasional itching
- Flat or slightly raised plaques that could occur as nodules
- Slow growth
- If an infection there could be pus
- Defined borders
- Few millimeters to a few centimeters in dimensions
Merkel Cell Carcinomas (neuroendocrine carcinoma)
Merkel cells are observed most often at the base of the epidermis (surface layer of the skin). That is to say, these cells are next to your nerve endings. They assist you in your sense of light touch like handling fine details on an item’s surface.
This type can resemble moles that are red, or flesh toned. Merkel cell carcinomas are rare but dangerous. These small nodules can be raised and are fast to grow. Therefore, it is aggressive and spreads to other areas of your body.
Usually found on sun-exposed areas of your skin. That is to say, your face, neck or scalp. But a very small percent can begin in other locations of the body, including inside your nose or esophagus.
This skin cancer occurs in the elderly who have a history of sun exposure or a weak immune system. To sum up, treatment depends on if it has gone beyond the skin.
MCC warning signs may be:
- Asymptomatic lesion, no pain or tenderness
- The lesion is expanding quickly
- You are immunosuppressed
- Your age is over 50
- This lesion presents on UV exposed skin
Wrapping it up
Sun can be seen in any type of weather, but it is closest to us during the summer months. Above all, many spots can look unusual and similar to skin cancers. Feeling a lesion is suspicious is a good time to have it checked out.
Be aware of what Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Merkel Cell Carcinoma look like. The key is to catch skin cancers early and get treatment.
If your job takes you outdoors, you should have an annual skin cancer screening with your dermatologist. Certainly, be safe in the sun this summer by wearing your sunscreen and protecting your skin. You will be preventing yourself from developing these spots and skin cancer in your future.
Have you ever had skin cancer?
Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.
https://www.preventcancer.org/education/preventable-cancers/skin-cancer/ accessed 05/13/2022
https://www.aad.org/media/stats-skin-cancer# accessed 05/13/2022
https://www.healthline.com/health/skin-cancer/bowens-disease accessed 05/13/2022
https://skincancer909.com/home/mimics-of-skin-cancer-i/ accessed 05/15/2022