The three most common malignant skin growths are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma often occurs on the head, especially the nose. Up to 70 percent of basal cell carcinoma is found on the head. It grows slowly and usually does not metastasize. However, untreated skin growths do grow into destructive lesions. Surgery is usually necessary in the majority of cases. Melanomas are usually found on the head as well (up to 47 percent of cases). Many melanomas are spotted on the neck, too, comprising almost 30 percent of all cases.
According to the American Cancer Society, the acronym ABCDE can help doctors and patients identify melanomas. The acronym stands for asymmetry, borders that are irregular, color showing variegation, a diameter greater than 6 mm, and an elevated skin growth. These are all warning signs that may help differentiate the benign mole from the malignant skin growth.
The most significant risk factor for melanoma is sun exposure. Getting sunburn greatly increases a person’s tendency to develop melanomas. Having more than 100 moles, even completely benign ones makes one more predisposed to melanomas.
Squamous cell carcinoma comprises about 20 percent of all cases of skin cancer. Although less common than basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma is deadlier because it tends to metastasize more often. Sun-exposed areas of the skin, especially in middle-aged or elderly populations, are more prone to this type of skin cancer.
Despite their increased tendency for metastasis, they are easily identified and may be surgically removed upon consultation. Initially, a squamous cell carcinoma is detected because of an ulcer that doesn’t heal. It may also appear as an abnormal skin growth that steadily enlarges with time.