Skin Cancer | Basal Cell | Actinic Keratosis

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Skin Cancer: Clarifying the Three Types

 By Gabe Mirkin, M.D. | Jan 2006

There are three main types of skin cancers. Melanoma is a skin cancer that starts in moles and can spread rapidly through your body and kill you. Moles that have irregular borders and multiple colors should be removed to be checked for melanoma. Moles that have smooth circular borders and are of one color are almost never melanoma cancers.

The second type of skin cancer is called squamous cell cancer. These can occasionally spread through the body and be fatal.

The third and most common type, basal cell skin cancer, rarely spreads through the body and can be cured just by taking out 100 percent of the lesion. They are called cancers because they keep on growing through everything around them until they are completely removed. Basal cell skin cancers fall apart and feel like marshmallows when they are scraped. All a doctor has to do is to inject an anaesthetic into the lesion, scrape the basal cell cancer until he feels the hard resistance of normal skin. He then burns an area of normal skin around the lesion to guarantee the removal of the entire cancer.

You can suspect that you have a basal cell skin cancer when you develop a red scaly area on the surface of a light-exposed area of skin. That is probably an actinic keratosis that can often be removed just by applying a special cream called imiquimod. However, if you leave the red area in place, it can go deeper and became a skin cancer. You can suspect that the actinic keratosis has gone deeper when the surface feels rough like sandpaper. If you let it grow further, it can become an elevated area with a fine pearly border.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports at

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Skin Cancer | Basal Cell | Actinic Keratosis

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