There are three main types of skin cancers, and two of these are referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers. Melanoma is an aggressive form of cancer that can spread easily to other parts of your body, while non-melanoma skin cancers generally don't spread if they are treated early. However, non-melanoma cancers are still serious conditions that should be treated promptly. Here's an overview of the two types of skin cancer that are referred to as non-melanoma:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a caused by UV rays from the sun or using sunbeds. The UV rays damage your skin cells and alter cell DNA, which allows cancerous cells to form. This cell damage can take a number of years to develop, even after an episode of severe sunburn, and basal cell carcinoma is slow to grow when it does appear.
This form of skin cancer typically appears as small bumps that are shiny in appearance, and although these bumps can appear anywhere on your body, they are most commonly found on the face. The bumps can be flesh-coloured or black, and you may see blood vessels in the middle of each bump. They will also bleed easily if scratched or irritated.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma can also be caused by UV rays, but there are additional risk factors associated with this type of cancer, such as being male, having light skin and having blonde hair. Squamous cell carcinoma is also more prevalent in the elderly population.
This type of skin cancer typically appears as a red bump, and the skin will be crusty or scaly. Squamous cell carcinomas also bleed easily and may be itchy. These cancerous bumps appear most often on areas of the body that are routinely exposed to the sun, such as your legs, ears, lips and neck.
Treating Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer
The goal when treating non-melanoma skin cancer is to remove the growth while causing the least amount of disfigurement, so your doctor will consider the location of the cancer and the size of the growth when recommending a course of treatment. Non-melanoma skin cancer can be excised, which simply means the growth is cut out with a spoon-shaped surgical device. Alternatively, a technique called curettage and desiccation can be used. This involves scraping away the growth, while using electrical charges delivered through a needle to kill cancerous cells in the surrounding tissue. Small growths can often be successfully treated with cryosurgery, which uses liquid nitrogen to kill cancerous cells.
If you develop any tissue growths on your skin, no matter how small, have them examined by your doctor as soon as possible, as prompt treatment can minimise tissue loss and scarring.