Treating SKIN CANCERin the Atlanta Area

Skin cancers are the most common cancer with more than 3 million Americans diagnosed each year. It begins on the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, and is most often caused by overexposure to UV light including sunlight and artificial sources, such as tanning beds. But, skin can also occur on areas of your skin not ordinarily exposed to UV light. 

The good news is that nearly all skin cancers can be cured if found and treated early. And, the more you learn about skin cancer and what to expect, the better you can cope.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three major types of skin cancers that fall into two primary categories: melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. Knowing which type you have is important as it affects the type of skin cancer treatment you will receive.

Click on the categories below to learn more.

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancers

Basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer are the two most common types of skin cancer. These cancers often form on the head, face, neck, hands, and arms; areas that are often exposed to the sun. Skin cancer that spreads to other parts of the body is still called skin cancer because of where it originated.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

BCCs are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells found in the lower epidermis. About 80% of skin cancers develop from this type of cell. It often looks like open sores, red patches, shiny bumps, pink growths, or scars. Although this type of cancer can occur on any area of skin that has been exposed to the sun, it’s most common on the face. Basal cell skin cancer grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. However, it can grow into nearby areas and invade the bone or other tissues beneath the skin if left untreated.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell skin cancer is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells that also occurs on parts of the skin that have been exposed to the sun — primarily, within the upper (outer) part of the epidermis. Although this typically includes areas like the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, balding scalp, neck, hands, arms, and legs, it also may occur in places on your body that do not receive any sun exposure, including inside the mouth and on the genitals. SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts. These skin abnormalities may crust or bleed at times. While this type of cancer isn’t usually life-threatening, untreated squamous cell cancer can sometimes spread to lymph nodes and organs inside the body, causing serious complications.


Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. With that said, it is considered to be more dangerous since there is a greater chance it will advance and spread to other parts of the body if not caught early. If recognized and treated early, however, melanoma is usually curable. 

Melanoma starts in cells in the skin called melanocytes, which are located between the dermis and epidermis. These cancerous growths develop when UV radiation triggers genetic defects to skin cells that lead to a rapid multiplication of skin cells that form malignant (cancerous) tumors. 

Melanomas often resemble moles. Some even develop from moles. While the majority of melanomas are black or brown, some may be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white.

Although any part of the skin can be affected by melanomas, they are more likely to develop on the trunk (chest and back) in men and on the legs in women. The neck and face are other common areas.  

The most important warning sign of melanoma is a new spot on the skin or an existing spot that now appears abnormal. Following the ABCDE guidelines can help you identify the usual signs of melanoma:

  • Asymmetry: One half of a mole (or birthmark) does not match the other
  • Border: Edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred
  • Color: The color is uneven and may include different shades or brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about the size of a pencil eraser)
  • Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, color, or elevation

Because not all melanomas fit these rules, it is important to tell your doctor or dermatologist any time you notice new spots on the skin or see changes in existing ones. Click to view some photos that can help you identify whether a mole may be cancerous. While these pictures can serve as a guide, only a doctor can determine if it is indeed skin cancer after an exam and biopsy (if needed) is performed.

Lesser Known Skin Cancers

While melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma account for 99% of all skin cancer cases, the following are other forms of skin cancer that are also important to be aware of.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC)

A rare, aggressive skin cancer that primarily occurs on sun-exposed skin such as the head and neck, as well as the arms, legs, and trunk. MCC usually appears as a firm, pink, red, or purple lump on the skin. Typically, these lumps are painless. MCC is a fast-growing cancer, which means that it can be hard to treat if it spreads to areas beyond the skin. The American Cancer Society has additional information about Merkel cell carcinoma worth reading.

Kaposi Sarcoma (KS)

This type of cancer develops from the cells that line lymph or blood vessels. It can cause lesions (abnormal tissue) to grow in the skin; the mucous membranes lining the mouth, nose, and throat; lymph nodes; or other organs. Although lesions typically do not cause symptoms, they can spread to other parts of the body. KS is caused by the human herpesvirus-8 (HHV-8), but that does not mean everyone infected with HHV-8 will get it. Typically, those most at risk are infected people whose immune systems have been weakened by disease or by drugs given after an organ transplant.

Types of Kaposi Sarcoma

While the changes within the KS cells are all very similar, there are a few different types of KS that are named from the populations that they are present in. These include:

  • Epidemic (AIDS-related) Kaposi sarcoma
  • Classic (Mediterranean) Kaposi sarcoma
  • Endemic (African) Kaposi sarcoma
  • Latrogenic (transplant-related) Kaposi sarcoma
  • Kaposi sarcoma in HIV negative men who have sex with men

Epidemic (AIDS-related) Kaposi sarcoma develops in those who are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. This type is the most common type of KS in the United States. Click here to learn more about Kaposi sarcoma from The American Cancer Society.

Lymphoma of the Skin

Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the lymphocytes — white blood cells that are vitally important in the functioning of the immune system. While lymphoma commonly involves the lymph nodes, it can begin in other lymphoid tissues such as the spleen, bone marrow, and the skin. The two main types of lymphomas are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Lymphomas that originated only in the skin are called skin lymphoma (or cutaneous lymphoma).

In addition to some of the typical skin cancer treatments such as photodynamic therapies, chemotherapy, and targeted therapies, lymphoma of the skin may also be treated by stem cell transplants, immunotherapy treatments, and clinical trials involving lymphoma vaccines.

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