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Carcinoma Warning Signs

The three types of skin cancer—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma—are named after the types of cell they arise from. The two types of carcinoma are somewhat similar to each other, so we’ll cover them both with one article.

Carcinomas can develop from normal skin, particularly in spots, moles, or blemishes. See your doctor immediately if you have such a spot and it suddenly becomes painful or swollen, or a wound or sore opens up without any apparent cause of injury.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common kind of skin cancer, accounting for approximately 75% of all cases. As with all skin cancers, the main warning sign for this carcinoma is an abnormal-looking growth on the skin that persists for a long period of time. In the case of basal cell carcinoma, the cancer is commonly a bump or growth that is “pearly” or waxy, reddish or pink, or uncommonly lightly pigmented. In some cases the growth might open up and become a sore that does not heal, bleeds easily, or has a sunken area in the middle.

If you have symptoms that have persisted for several weeks, you should have your skin examined by a doctor. Unless you are a high-risk case, such as a person with very little skin pigmentation and a lot of sun or x-ray exposure, it is likely to be something benign, but if it is a cancer it’s better to know as soon as possible.

Squamous cell carcinoma presents as a reddish, rough, scaly bump on the skin. It is less common than basal cell carcinoma, but it spreads faster. In order to save the largest amount of healthy tissue, it needs to be responded to quickly. Chemical exposure, sun exposure, and old age are some of the biggest risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma.

In either case, the earliest warning sign is usually a newly discolored area of skin or a sudden change in an existing wart, mole, or lesion. Skin cells that are already abnormal, are at a greater risk for becoming cancerous.

Neither skin cancer is very likely to metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body, but if they are allowed to spread they will damage the surrounding tissue quickly. In order to minimize the damage caused by skin cancer, see a doctor so you can get appropriate treatment right away.

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