How to identify skin cancer

Local News

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — All day Thursday in every newscast, News 5 is taking a closer look at skin cancer, and how to protect yourself.

There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

According to Skin Cancer Foundation statistics, one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and the three main types are broken down by different cells in our skin.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. It begins in the basal cells, which sit just below the skin’s surface and produce new skin cells as old ones die off. Basal cell carcinoma often appears as a slightly transparent bump on the skin that won’t go away, but it can take other forms.

“It’s kind of pink and pearly, shiny. It has little blood vessels that can go through it here. This is also basal cell but it can look like squamous cell, like the eczema look,” said Dr. Amy Morris, Board Certified Dermatologist, as she showed us pictures of basal cell carcinoma.

Basal cells are easily damaged by ultraviolet rays. According to, an estimated 4.3-million cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, but it can be treated if caught early.

Dr. Morris said, “Basal cells are I say the best kind of skin cancer to get because they do not spread, but they can still invade locally.”

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It forms when squamous cells begin to grow uncontrollably in the top layers of the skin.

“Squamous cells can invade, but they usually don’t metastasize very often. If someone did have a squamous cell on their lower lip or if they were immunocompromised or if they were a transplant patient, they too can spread throughout the body,” Dr. Morris told News 5.

More than 1-million cases of Squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, reportedly resulting in more than 15,000 deaths. And it can be easily confused with other skin disorders…

Dr. Morris says squamous cell carcinoma is, “Kind of just pink and scaly, and almost look like psoriasis. This is actually a squamous cell around a nail, and here you can see the scale and the redness around here. Same thing, this looks like eczema on someone’s finger but that is actually skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma.”

The third, and most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma.

Dr. Morris told Cherish Lombard, “Statistically one person dies of melanoma every hour in the United States.”

There are several ways to spot melanoma.

“It’s asymmetrical, so it’s not the same on either side. You have border irregularity, or what we call like the coast of Maine. You have color variation, there’s some brown, some really dark brown, lighter colors, almost a blue-black color, and then diameter greater than a pencil eraser. And then evolution, so definitely this has probably changed and spread on this individual and you have another new bump coming up here,” said Dr. Morris.

There is hope for people diagnosed with melanoma, if they’re diagnosed early.

“If they’re caught early, we call that melanoma in situ. And those lesions and those cancers can be cured 100-percent of the time,” said Dr. Morris.


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