Is It Skin Cancer?

(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #1
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with more than 3.5 million cases affecting more than two million people each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Early detection and treatment are key, which is why it's vital to pay attention to moles and other marks on your skin (and to see a dermatologist once a year for a skin exam). May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month.
For more information, visit www.melanomamonday.org.
There are three main kinds of skin cancer: Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the most lethal form (shown at above). In addition, there are "precancers" called actinic keratoses, along with iffy moles (dysplastic nevi) that could be worrisome. Keep clicking as Dr. Michele Green, a skin cancer expert in New York City, walks us through photos showing the things you should be looking for. The images are graphic, but looking at them just might save your life, or that of someone you love.

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #2
Here's a hand with several actinic keratoses - all those red, scaly patches. These back-of-the-hand lesions are common in older golfers and others who spend a lot of time outdoors. Without treatment, actinic keratoses can turn into a form of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #3
Sometimes it's hard to tell one kind of skin cancer (or precancerous lesion) from another. But this is a classic actinic keratosis - flat, pink and scaly. Yes, you might be able to pick this crusty lesion off with your fingers. But it would grow back. The right thing to do is see a dermatologist and have it removed.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #4
This raised, scaly patch is an actinic keratosis. It's been marked with ink - in preparation for its removal.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #5
The red patch on the ear might not look like much, but it's actually an actinic keratosis. These lesions typically feel rough and sometimes bleed. Actinic keratoses tend to occur on areas of skin that get a lot of sun exposure, including the ears, face, scalp, as well as the backs of the hands and the neck.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #6
The ears are another spot where actinic keratoses like these are apt to show up.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #7
This could be an actinic keratosis or squamous cell carcinoma. In general, the prognosis is good for people with squamous cell carcinoma. But a squamous cell carcinoma that develops on the lips or another mucous membrane is more likely to spread (metastasize) - and in rare instances metastatic squamous cell carcinoma proves deadly.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #8
Dr. Green says these white, crusty actinic keratoses look a bit unusual. But like all actinic keratoses, they can turn cancerous.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #9
This is a classic basal cell carcinoma - the least dangerous form of skin cancer. Note the red color and the almost pearlescent look. These cancers seldom metastasize but can grow larger - and so should be removed. To minimize scarring and disfigurement, a basal cell carcinoma on the face should generally be taken off with a specialized form of surgery called Mohs. Elsewhere on the body, the lesions are often simply burned off.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #10
This basal cell carcinoma has turned into a bloody, oozy mess. Be suspicious of any lesion that bleeds and doesn't heal, Dr. Green says.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #11
Another basal cell carcinoma - note the pearlescent look. For lesions like this, it's generally best to use Mohs surgery to minimizes scarring and prevent disfigurement. Mohs can usually be performed on an outpatient basis.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #12
Some basal cell carcinomas, like this one, have a raised border.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #13
This basal cell carcinoma of the eyelid is another candidate for Mohs surgery. Skin cancers are common on the face because it gets so much sun exposure over the years.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #14
Here's a basal cell carcinoma that looks like a scar. Atypical lesions like these can be tricky to diagnose. When she sees a lesion like this, Dr. Green says she typically asks the patient if it's the aftermath of some wound. If not, odds are it's got to come off.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #15
Dermatologists take a close look at pigmented lesions like this one because in rare instances they turn out to be melanoma - the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. But the raised lesion shown here is actually a basal cell carcinoma.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #16
This isn't skin cancer but a dysplastic nevus (mole). Lesions that resemble this dysplatic (the word means the cells look irregular under the microscope) lesion are generally benign. But if you have a lot of them, you may be more likely to develop skin cancer.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #17
Another dysplastic nevus. Note the irregular border and the different shades of color. Those can be signs of melanoma - but not in this case.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #18
Asymmetry is another worrisome sign - that is, when one half of the lesion doesn't look like the other. This happens to be a dysplastic nevus, but asymmetry is also a hallmark of melanoma.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #19
This flat, speckled lesion is a dysplastic nevus.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #20
This close-up shot shows another dysplastic nevus, though the dark color is more typical of a melatoma. "This would scare me," says Dr. Green.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #21
Here is the most worrisome kind of skin cancer: Melanoma. Note the color - it's dark, almost black. The irregular, scalloped border seen in this lesion is another hallmark of melanoma. Over time, melanomas grow and thicken. The thicker the lesion, the worse the prognosis. This one should have been removed long ago.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #22
This melanoma has the very dark coloration and the varied (variegated) color. In addition, it's highly asymmetrical.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #23
Here's a black-and-blue nail, right? Not hardly. It's a melanoma of the nailbed, and lesions like this can be deadly.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #24
This is a very large melanoma on the scalp. It takes awhile for a melanoma to grow this big. For some reason, people sometimes put off going to the doctor even when they suspect they have a problem. In other cases, melanomas are allowed to grow big because they develop on a hard-to-see part of the body.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #25
Melanoma of the face is very common.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #26
This melanoma is fairly advanced - as evidenced by the raised portion. As melanomas grow and thicken, they become harder to treat successfully.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #27
Though much more common in fair-skinned people, skin cancer affects blacks and other racial/ethnic groups too. Here's a melanoma on dark skin.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #28
The pink area next to this melanoma on dark skin may be the result of what Dr. Green calls "regression" - the body has fought back at the lesion, shrinking it a bit. But the body can't cope with a lesion like this. It needs to come off. Yesterday.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #29
This blackish lesion is a melanoma. But melanomas can also look reddish, or even bluish.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #30
This melanoma has been growing for years. Lesions this extensive generally cannot be successfully treated - which is why early removal is so essential.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #31
Here's a bluish-black melanoma. Sometimes melanomas start out as one color and slowly change.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #32
Melanomas on the foot are rare but sometimes deadly - because people may mistake them for warts, delaying treatment by a doctor.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #33
A melanoma this thick is almost certain to prove lethal.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #34
This nodular lesion is a squamous cell carcinoma. These lesions are seldom fatal but can be disfiguring.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #35
Here's a squamous cell carcinoma of the nail.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #36
Squamous cell carcinoma on the back of the hand.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #37
Just a scab? No, this is a squamous cell carcinoma. Because skin cancers often extend deeper into tissue that is readily apparent, the surgery required to remove this lesion is likely to be very extensive - and potentially disfiguring. Better to have it removed before it gets so big.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
PICTURE #38
Removal of a squmous cell carcinoma on the nose, like the one shown here, is another that could prove disfiguring.
(Credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation)
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