Non-melanoma skin cancer—a term used to describe basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)—affects more than 3.3 million people each year in the United States. BCC is the most common form of skin cancer, with more than four million new cases each year, and SCC is the second most common, with upwards of one million diagnoses. Like melanoma, the vast majority of non-melanoma skin cancer is caused by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation, so it most often occurs on areas that have been directly exposed, such as the head, face, neck, back and shoulders.
According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, 40 to 50 percent of Americans that live to age 65 will have BCC or SCC at least once in their lifetime. Given the frequency and severity of these cancers, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms in order to begin treatment as early as possible.
1. What is Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?
Before we dive into the subtypes of this skin cancer and their subsequent signs and symptoms, let’s briefly touch on what non-melanoma skin cancer is. According to the Canadian Cancer Society it’s a term used to refer to a group of skin cancers that “grow into and destroy nearby tissue.” No only does it destroy tissue, but if left untreated it can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Luckily, this is rare. Most skin cancers are found early enough to be treated.
There are two main types of non-melanoma skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) which we’ll dive a little deeper into next…