Skin cancer can develop on any part of the body that receives frequent sun exposure – the scalp, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands, for instance. One of the areas most prone to skin cancer is the face. It can affect people of all skin tones, including individuals with darker complexions.
What Are the Types of Skin Cancer?
Facial skin cancer is divided into three different types:
- Basal cell carcinomas affect the face, ears and scalp, and are characterized by a pearly, waxy bump; a flat, flesh-colored lesion; or a brown scar-like lesion. About 90 percent of all skin cancer diagnoses fall under this category.
- Squamous cell carcinomas are most typically found on the face, lips and ears. Signs include a firm, reddish nodule and a flat lesion with a scaly or crusted surface.
- Melanomas can occur anywhere but are commonly found on the head or neck. Symptoms of facial melanoma include a mole that changes size or color, or bleeds; a brownish spot with dark speckles; a lesion with an irregular border and parts that appear red, blue, blue-black or white; and dark lesions on the mucous membranes lining the nose and mouth.
How Are Skin Cancer and Skin Lesions Different?
A skin lesion is a part of the skin that has an abnormal growth or appearance compared to the skin around it. There are two categories of skin lesions, primary and secondary.
Primary skin lesions are present at birth or are acquired over your lifetime. A birthmark would be an example of a primary skin lesion. Secondary skin lesions evolve from primary lesions or develop as a consequence of your activities. Melanoma resulting from sun exposure would be an example of a secondary skin lesion.
There are a few other facial skin cancers that are more rare. Look for red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes; firm, shiny nodules in the hair follicles or just beneath the skin; or hard, painless nodules on the eyelids or other parts of the face.
Make an appointment with Pinnacle ENT if you notice any change to your skin that appear abnormal.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Facial skin cancer is the result of mutations in the skin cells that cause them to grow out of control. The biggest risk factor for skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and tanning beds. Those with fair skin, a history of sunburns and excessive sun exposure, moles or a family history of skin cancer are more prone to developing it.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated?
Treatment for facial skin cancer depends on the type, size and location of the cancer, as well as the patient’s overall health.
Small lesions limited to the surface of the skin can often be removed with a simple skin biopsy. Other superficial skin cancers detected early can often be removed by freezing with liquid nitrogen or vaporizing with laser therapy. Excisional surgery, or Mohs surgery for larger growths, can also be effective in cutting out cancer without causing damage to the surrounding skin.
When surgery isn’t an option, radiation therapy may be recommended. Chemotherapy involves the use of creams or lotions that contain cancer-killing drugs applied directly to the skin, and is especially effective in cancers that are confined to the top layer of skin. For cancers that have spread to other parts of the body, systemic chemotherapy is often effective.
The best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, particularly between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when ultraviolet light is at its peak. Use plenty of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, and wear hats, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Be on the lookout for any changes to your skin, particularly suspicious-looking moles. If you’re older than 40, have a professional examine your skin once a year.
Contact one of our convenient locations for more information or to schedule an appointment.