Understanding Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

By on June 5, 2019 under Skin Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is upsetting news wherever it is found in the body. Although some cancers are more aggressive than others, the nature of cancer is the same. A mutation at the cellular level causes cells to reproduce out of control. In the interior organs, this leads to the growth of tumors. When cancer is found on the skin, it leads to patches of cancerous cells. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. You may not hear as much about these types of skin cancer as melanoma, but it’s just as important to know what they are and how they can affect you. Here’s what to know.

The Difference Between Squamous Cells and Basal Cells

The outer layer of the skin is made up of layers of flat cells known as squamous cells. Your body is constantly growing and shedding these cells as they make their way to the outer layer and die. When your skin is dry and itchy in the winter months, it is because your squamous cells are drying out and flaking away. Squamous cells do not divide; they are instead replaced over time.

Basal cells are deeper in the skin at the lowest level of the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin). As these round cells divide and multiply, they push up the next layer of cells toward the surface. These cells then flatten out and become squamous cells. Basal cells are separated from the lower levels of the skin by a thin membrane.

Knowing Signs of Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Cancer

Most people have been warned about the dangers of another form of skin cancer called melanoma. This type of cancer is caused by another skin cell in the epidermis, the melanocyte. They know to check themselves for the unusual moles that are its telltale sign.

Basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers can be more difficult to spot. The signs may just seem like irritated skin or a dry patch. However, the best results for treatment happen when skin cancers are caught before they break through the basement membrane and into lower levels of the skin and bone, so it is important to catch them early. These are two things to look out for.

Actinic Keratosis

These small, reddish spots are commonly found on fair-skinned people in places like the hands, face, and neck that have been damaged by the sun. Although they are not cancerous and can disappear on their own, they can also be a sign of developing cancer. If you think you see these scaly spots on your body, be sure to have a dermatologist like Dr. Baird check them. Sometimes, a procedure or prescribed cream can destroy that section of squamous cells so they cannot become cancerous.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Situ

This condition is also known as Bowen disease. It involves up to half-inch patches of red, scaly skin. Here, the squamous are cancerous but are still in the upper level of the skin. Treatment will be required to remove the diseased cells. Dr. Baird can perform most of the required treatments in our Farmington office.

Differences Between Basal Cancer and Squamous Cell Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, making up 80% of skin cancer cases. Although it can break through the basement membrane, it is generally a slow-growing cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma is more likely to spread throughout the body but is still not as aggressive as other cancers. In addition to sun-damaged areas, squamous cells cancers can develop on scars or other places where the skin has been damaged or irritated.

Early Detection is the Key

The sooner skin cancer is detected, the better the chance for successful treatment. The goal of any skin cancer treatment is to remove the cancerous area before it can spread deeper into the body. If you see any unusual patches on your skin, be sure to call Dr. Baird’s office for an appointment right away. You can schedule a skin cancer screening in Farmington by calling or filling out our online form.