What is skin cancer?
Though it's not a female cancer, skin cancer affects more women than men and is a growing problem.
There are several different types of skin cancer, but they can all be divided into one of two categories: melanoma and non-melanoma.
The distinction is important. Most cases of skin cancer in Canada are non-melanomas.
Melanoma is less common but is more serious, because it spreads very quickly. It also affects more women than men.
Most skin cancers are slow growing, and can be there for years before they are detected. Others can develop within a few short months. Caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable.
The different types of skin cancer?
Melanoma, or malignant melanoma, is the most serious form of skin cancer. It is an overgrowth of the skin cells that make melanin (or skin pigment) when your skin is exposed to the sun. It is the most aggressive and fast-moving type of skin cancer, but caught early, it is curable.
Under the umbrella of non-melanoma skin cancers are squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, both of which begin in the epidermis, or the top layer of the skin.
Basal cell is the kind most often found in people with fair skin, generally on parts of the body that are frequently exposed to the sun, like the head and neck. This kind of cancer tends to grow slowly, and doesn’t often spread.
Squamous cell is the second most common skin cancer, and is also generally found on parts of the body that spend a lot of time in the sun. It is more likely than basal cell carcinoma to spread to the surrounding skin, but it rarely spreads beyond the skin to other organs.