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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Hutson

Skin Cancer

There are 3 types of Skin Cancer; Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma.

An important part of the diagnosis is evaluating how deeply it has penetrated the layers of the skin. Lesions that area less than 0.7 mm deep typically have not yet spread, but lesions that have invaded 4 mm or more after often associated with distant metastasis.

Many doctors rely on the "ugly duckling" principle - any mole that looks different from others should be examined.


  • Ignoring an important sign or symptom - a sore that doesn't heal or a suspicious mole or other marking

Treatment Options

Typically depends on the type and stage of diagnosis.

  1. Cryotherapy

  2. Surgery

  3. Chemotherapy

  4. Photodynamic Therapy

  5. Biological Therapy

  6. Radiation


Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

  • This is by far the most common, accounting for about 80% of all skin cancer diagnoses

  • Slow-growing tumor of basal cells in the epidermis

  • Usually appears on the face or the head - around the nose or orbits

  • If not treated, it may invade and damage healthy tissues, including bones, blood vessels and nerves

Signs & Symptoms

  • The most common is a nodular form - small, hard lump with rounded pinky pearly edges and soft sunken middle

  • Tiny blood vessels call telangiectasias may be visible

  • May itch and bleed easily

  • They don't tend to hurt, and they don't heal

Pigmented Basal Cells has a darker lesions

Superficial Basal Cells resembles eczema or psoriasis

Micronodular Basal Cells shows multiple well-defined white/yellow lesions

Morpheaforn Basal Cells tend to show only subtle scar-like lesions on the skin, while slightly and aggressively invading deeper tissues


Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

  • Skin cells that arise in keratinocytes superficial to the basal layer

  • Often appears in areas exposed to sunlight, also grows in the mouth - affecting the tongue, cheeks and gums

  • It can grow on the penis or vaginal wall is associated with a history of genial warts

  • Exposure to mid-range UV light is the main risk factor, but can also develop in the presence of long-term skin injury or inflammation

  • Lesions caught in early stages are typically removed as quickly as possible

Types of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

1. Actinic Keratosis (AK) or Solar Keratosis

  • Often discussed as a precancerous condition that may lead to SCC

  • The cellular changes are identical to those seen with invasive SCC

  • If left long enough, most AK lesions do develop aggressive characteristics

  • They seldom spontaneously disappear

  • They look like brown or red scaly lesions in sun-exposed areas

2. Actinic Cheilitis

  • This is a form of AK

  • Found specifically on the lips

3. Leukoplakia

  • This form looks like white patches

  • This is on the tongue and inside of cheek

  • Often associated with tobacco use

  • It isn't usually dangerous, but in rare cases can become malignant

4. Bowen Disease or Situ SCC

  • Similar to AK

  • Lesions tend to be larger and browner

Signs & Symptoms

  • Often appears on pre-existing injuries (inside the mouth) and in areas with a history of sun damage

  • They share typical nonmelanoma skin cancer patterns - they appear as nonpainful sores that may itch or bleed, but don't fully heal

  • SCC borders are often less distinct than those of BCC

  • Many but not all SCC lesions begin as actinic keratoses



  • Melanocytes are the pigment cells deep in the epidermis that give skin its color

  • Melanin in skin cells offers some protection from UV radiation, but when they become overactive and replicate out of control, they quickly become a life-threatening form of cancer

  • Metastasizes readily, often leading to tumors in the bones, liver, or central nervous system

  • They are found in the eyes, reproductive and digestive tracts as well as the skin

  • This has a good prognosis if it is found and treated early

Types of Melanoma

1. Superficial Spreading Melanoma

  • The most common variety

  • it spreads along the surface of the skin before invading deeper tissues

  • It may be multicolored and slightly elevated

2. Lentigo Melanoma

  • Begins as a superficial discoloration

  • Usually in older people

  • They often deeply notched

3. Acral Lentiginous Melanoma

  • It often begins under the nails or on the palms or soles

4. Nodular Melanoma

  • This is the most aggressive type of skin cancer

  • It is significantly elevated from the skin

  • It often penetrates deeper into the tissues

Signs & Symptoms

  • Often starts from a pre-existing mole that begins to change - it lightens, darkens, thickens, and may become elevated

  • It may itch or bleed around the edges

  • The color and texture may change

  • Doesn't always start as a mole, nor does it always begin in places exposed to the sun


Massage and Skin Cancer

  • Massage therapist are in a position to see possible lesions and bring them to client's attention

  • Clients who have been fully treated for skin cancer can enjoy the same benefits from massages as the rest of the population

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