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What is malignant skin cancer?

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In brief: Malignant skin cancers

• Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), also known as or rodent ulcer. This is the most common form of malignant skin cancer.
A BCC arises from cells in the epidermis. Typically it affects only small areas, grows slowly and does not spread to other tissues. Consequently a BCC is not usually life-threatening. However, if left untreated, the cancerous cells can 'burrow' deeper into the skin, hence the name rodent ulcer. BCC are associated with sun-exposure and often affect the face.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): This is the second most common malignant skin cancer, and in rare cases it can be life-threatening. It arises from cells in the epidermis and invades the skin locally, but it can also spread to nearby lymph nodes. Squamous cell carcinomas appear as thickened skin, nodule or lump or can appear as an ulcer. SCC can be caused by sun exposure and certain viruses that affect the skin, and can occur in old scars.
Malignant melanoma: This is the most serious skin cancer and often spreads to other tissues or organs. Although it can develop from moles in the skin, most melanomas arise from a pigment-producing cell found in the epidermis. Melanomas resemble moles on the skin, but there are differences. The following list of features can help distinguish a melanoma from a normal mole.

Asymmetry: The melanoma skin lesion is an irregular shape

Border: The outline of the spot is ragged rather than smooth

Colour: There is a variation of colour within the spot

Diameter: The spot is bigger than 6mm across and/or has increased in size recently

Elevation: The lesion is raised above the surface of the skin


Other features which may indicate skin cancer include any spot that changes in size, shape, or colour; itches, bleeds or forms an ulcer. Although these signs do not necessarily indicate skin cancer, you should visit your doctor to have it assessed.

In brief: Malignant skin cancers

• Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), also known as or rodent ulcer. This is the most common form of malignant skin cancer.
A BCC arises from cells in the epidermis. Typically it affects only small areas, grows slowly and does not spread to other tissues. Consequently a BCC is not usually life-threatening. However, if left untreated, the cancerous cells can 'burrow' deeper into the skin, hence the name rodent ulcer. BCC are associated with sun-exposure and often affect the face.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): This is the second most common malignant skin cancer, and in rare cases it can be life-threatening. It arises from cells in the epidermis and invades the skin locally, but it can also spread to nearby lymph nodes. Squamous cell carcinomas appear as thickened skin, nodule or lump or can appear as an ulcer. SCC can be caused by sun exposure and certain viruses that affect the skin, and can occur in old scars.
Malignant melanoma: This is the most serious skin cancer and often spreads to other tissues or organs. Although it can develop from moles in the skin, most melanomas arise from a pigment-producing cell found in the epidermis. Melanomas resemble moles on the skin, but there are differences. The following list of features can help distinguish a melanoma from a normal mole.

Asymmetry: The melanoma skin lesion is an irregular shape

Border: The outline of the spot is ragged rather than smooth

Colour: There is a variation of colour within the spot

Diameter: The spot is bigger than 6mm across and/or has increased in size recently

Elevation: The lesion is raised above the surface of the skin


Other features which may indicate skin cancer include any spot that changes in size, shape, or colour; itches, bleeds or forms an ulcer. Although these signs do not necessarily indicate skin cancer, you should visit your doctor to have it assessed.
Quality HealthCare Team
Quality HealthCare Team
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