Basal cell carcinoma/Squamous cell carcinoma/Melanoma

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States affecting people of all ages and ethnicities. More than 3.5 million people are diagnosed annually, more newly diagnosed each year than breast, prostrate, lung and colon cancers combined. Skin cancer occurs when the cells in the outermost layer of skin, called the epidermis, begin to grow out of control. The epidermis itself has three layers: an upper and middle layer made up of squamous cells, and a bottom layer made up of melanocytes and basal cells. Different types of skin cancer affect each of these types of cells, including the most common forms: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Albany Dermatology offers 
Photo Mole Mappingthe use of high-resolution photographs to take an inventory of moles and other skin lesions on your body. skin lesion is a part of the skin that has an abnormal growth or appearance compared to the skin around it, which can be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign). Photo Mapping images provide a way to track changes on your skin particularly if you have a large number of unusual moles or if you have a history of skin cancer. Because it shows a history of changes to your skin over time, photo mapping helps to diagnose melanoma and skin cancer earlier.

American Academy of Dermatology; accessed at

Forms in the basal cells and is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for about 75% of cases. Upwards of 2 million people are diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma each year in the United States. It presents as open sores, red patches, pink growths and shiny bumps, and typically develops on areas exposed to the sun such as the head and neck. It is a slow-growing cancer that rarely spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body. Treatments are very effective when the tumor is detected while small and thin but can be disfiguring if not treated promptly. People with a history of basal cell carcinoma are at higher risk for getting a second lesion.


Forms in the squamous cells and accounts for about 20% of skin cancer cases, occurring twice as often in men than in women. Approximately 200,000 to 300,000 people are diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma each year in the United States, and about 2,500 die from the disease. It often presents as a sore that does not heal, appearing as a scaly, crusted and large reddish patch (often larger than one inch). It usually appears on sun exposed areas including the face, ear, neck, lips, and backs of the hands. As with basal cell carcinoma, the available treatments are very effective when the tumor is detected while it is small and thin but will metastasize rapidly if not treated promptly.


Forms in the melanocytes cells, which produce the skin’s color. Melanomas are typically caused by exposure to the sun and also because of genetic factors. While it accounts for about 5% of skin cancer cases, melanoma is more dangerous than the other types of skin cancer. Approximately 85,000 people were diagnosed with some type of melanoma in 2012 and over 9,800 died from the disease. Unfortunately, it is increasing at a faster rate than for any other cancer, with the exception of lung cancer in women. In the United States, the incidence of malignant melanoma from 1973 to 2002 increased by 270%. Melanoma is the number one cancer developing in women between the ages of 25-30 and number two after breast cancer from 30-35. The incidence of melanoma in men has started to level off over the last several years but it is still climbing in women, approximately 5% yearly, believed to be due in part to the frequent use of indoor tanning devices in younger women. Melanoma is treatable in its early stages but survival drops precipitously when it spreads to other parts of the body through the blood, nerves or lymph system, in a process called metastasis.

A melanoma may first present as an unusual looking freckle or mole in a variety of colors including tan, dark brown, black, blue, red and occasionally, light grey. Melanomas that are lacking pigment are called amelanotic melanoma. During its horizontal phase of growth, a melanoma is normally flat. As the vertical phase develops, the melanoma becomes thickened and raised. Some melanomas are itchy or tender. More advanced lesions may bleed easily or crust over.









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