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Skin cancer; Squamous cell cancer; Basal cell cancer; Actinic keratosis; Nonmelanoma skin cancer
Other types of skin cancer are referred to as nonmelanoma skin cancers The two most common types are called basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer.
Basal cell cancer starts in the lowest part of the epidermis, in round cells called basal cells. Basal cell is the most common form of skin cancer. It occurs in about 800,000 - 900,000 people every year. However, this cancer is far less likely to be fatal than melanoma. The death rate from nonmelanoma skin cancers has dropped about 30% over the past 30 years.
Basal cell cancer usually develops later in life in areas that have received the most sun exposure, such as the head, neck, back, and especially the nose. However, some basal cell cancers appear in areas not exposed to the sun.
Basal cell cancers have many different appearances:
Basal cell cancers are sometimes hard to tell from benign skin conditions. For instance, occasionally they arise in unexposed skin, where they may look like an ordinary mole, cyst, or pimple. They may be particularly difficult to tell apart from benign cysts when they occur near the eyes.
Usually, basal cells grow slowly. They are rarely deadly. Most basal cell cancers do not need to be treated as an emergency. However, because late treatment can cause disfigurement, they should be removed as early as possible.
Basal cell cancers that are most likely to spread include those that are larger than 1 centimeter, scar-like, and those located on the cheek, nose, neck, earlobe, eyelid, or temple.
Some studies have shown that people with basal cell cancer may be at higher risk for second cancers, including melanoma, cancer of the lip, salivary glands, larynx, lung, breast, and kidney, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Those at higher risk for such cancers appear to be men and anyone diagnosed before 60 with basal cell cancer.
Squamous cell cancer of the skin is even less common than basal cell cancers. About 200,000 to 300,000 people are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.
Squamous cell cancer develops from flat, scale-like skin cells called keratinocytes, which lie under the top layer of the epidermis. Most squamous cell cancers occur on sun-exposed areas, especially the forehead, temple, ears, neck, and back of the hands. People who have spent considerable time sunbathing may develop them on their lower legs. Squamous cell cancers occur more often than basal cell cancers in African-Americans and Asians, and are more common in men than women.
Although squamous cell skin cancers usually can be removed completely with no risk of the cancer spreading, they are more likely to be invasive and to spread elsewhere in the body.
Types of squamous cell cancer:
Getting prompt treatment is important, because squamous cell cancers are more likely than basal cell cancers to spread to local lymph nodes.
Squamous cell cancers most likely to spread include:
People with squamous cell cancers seem to be at higher risk for other cancers, including:
People who have had basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers face a two-fold increase in their risk of developing other types of cancer, such as lung, color or breast cancers. The younger people are when they get nommelanoma skin cancer, the higher their risk for developing other cancers.
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