There are three major types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. BCC is by far the most common. It is almost never fatal, but unlimited growth is the reason for early intervention. SCC is more aggressive than BCC and may be preceded by “actinic keratosis”, a frequently encountered premalignant condition. It is worthwhile to identify this condition, for which topical treatment is available. Melanoma, a rare but dangerous skin cancer, resembles a mole, but does not necessarily emerge from an existing one. Self-monitoring is important for early detection of a possibly (pre)cancerous growth or spot. We only recommend routine skin cancer screening to certain high-risk individuals (melanoma in history and/or family, a large number of irregular moles).
Limited accuracy of a clinical diagnosis based on history taking, inspection and dermoscopy* readily results in false reassurance and may negatively influence patients’ skin surveillance behavior.
A skin biopsy, a procedure to remove a sample of skin tissue for pathology (analyzing a tissue sample under a microscope), is always needed to rule out (pre)malignancy. An excisional biopsy or cutting out the entire lesion with a necessary margin is performed whenever possible.
* a technique to look underneath the skin surface using polarized light