The two most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma affecting more than 1.3 million people in the United States each year. Both are caused by long-term exposure to the sun and typically appear in the same locations as precancerous actinic keratoses (AKs). The rim of the ear and the lower lip are especially susceptible to SCC.

Outdoor workers have a high incidence of BCC and SCC, but in the general population, increasing numbers of individuals only in their 20’s and 30’s are being diagnosed with these cancers.

Some BCCs resemble non cancerous skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.
There are five typical characteristics of BCC:

  • A shiny bump that is pearly or translucent and is often pink, red, or white. The bump can also be tan, black, or brown in dark haired people and can be confused as a mole.
  • An open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for three or more weeks. A persistent non-healing sore is a very common sign of an early basal cell carcinoma.
  • A scar-like area that is white, yellow, or waxy, and often has poorly defined borders. The skin itself appears shiny and taut.
  • A pink growth with a slightly elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. As the growth slowly enlarges, tiny blood vessels may develop on the surface.
  • A reddish patch or irritated area frequently occurring on the chest, shoulders, arms, or legs. Sometimes the patch crusts. It may also itch or hurt. At other times, it persists with no noticeable discomfort.

While BCCs seldom spread to vital organs, they can cause major damage – even the loss of an eye, ear, or nose. Certain rare forms can become lethal if not treated promptly.