Monday, May 9, 2011

Melanoma's Milder Siblings - Not To Be Taken Lightly

As I, and many other bloggers, have stated, melanoma doesn’t seem to get the same “respect” as other cancers.  One reason for this is the relatively easy treatment of skin cancer when it’s caught early.  Depending on which source you read, the five-year survival rate of even the beast of all skin cancers, melanoma, is well above 90% when the cancer is detected in its early stages.  So if such cancer can be treated so easily, why worry about it…right?  But then again, the non- melanoma cancers should not be so easily ignored.
Basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, is the most common cancer of all cancers, affecting about a million Americans each year.  More than one out of three new cancers is a skin cancer and the vast majority is BCC.  Even more so than melanoma, BCC can be easily treated in its early stage.  But the larger the tumor has grown, the more extensive the treatment.  Basal cell carcinoma rarely metastasizes or spreads like melanoma, but if left untreated or ignored, it could result in skin destruction and disfiguring.  Recently, Governor Jerry Brown of California had a BCC removed from his nose and required plastic surgery afterwards.
The other, more serious skin cancer sibling is squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC.  Like BCC, SCC is often found in areas where sun exposure is high, such as the ear, face, bald scalp, neck, hands arms and legs.  Those who have had a basal cell carcinoma are more likely to develop a squamous cell carcinoma.  The majority of skin cancer found in African Americans is SCC, usually arising from sites of burns or skin injuries.  A small percentage (2% to 10%) of SCC can metastasize which can be life-threatening.  About 2,500 people die each year from squamous cell carcinoma.
The treatment percentage for BCC and SCC is very high when compared to melanoma, and the resulting ease to remove the tumor in early stages contributes to people’s misunderstanding of the seriousness of all skin cancers, including melanoma.  But it’s important to remember that both of these milder “cut-it-out” cancers can result in disfiguring scars from the surgery, or even death.  And just like melanoma, it’s important to remember that UV radiation and over exposure to sunlight is the main cause.
It bears repeating…use sunscreen and be smart about sun exposure.  Even simple ol’ skin cancer can have devastating consequences.


  1. Great post! I had BCC and I was told over and over how "lucky" I was that I only had a minor skin cancer. (which I agree) but I didn't feel so lucky when I had half of my nose removed at the age of 22. In my book it was a huge deal. I just hope all those tanners out there can see that it's just not worth it! I have my story blogged at the link below. Please pass it on to all of those young tanners out there. :)

  2. Thanks Staci! I think the fight against melanoma is an important one, but it's a tough battle because people think ALL skin cancer is easily removed with no impact. My point in this post was to let people know that, even if it's not melanoma, many "easy removals" have more impact than they think.

    I plan to share your blog on my Facebook sends a great message about the seriousness of the "less serious" skin cancers!

  3. Non-melanoma is not that dangerous but prevention is always better then cure so we should stay aware of the symptoms and should take preventive measures.

    Skin Cancer Treatment