Skin Cancer

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Skin cancers -- including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma -- often start as changes to your skin. They can be new growths or precancerous lesions -- changes that are not cancer but could become cancer over time. An estimated 40% to 50% of fair-skinned people who live to be 65 will develop at least one skin cancer.

Learn to spot the early warning signs.

Skin cancer can be cured if it's found and treated early.

Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis)
These small, scaly patches are caused by too much sun, and commonly occur on the head, neck, or hands, but can be found elsewhere. They can be an early warning sign of skin cancer, but it’s hard to tell whether a particular patch will continue to change over time and become cancerous.
Most do not, but doctors recommend early treatment to prevent the development of squamous cell skin cancer. Fair-skinned, blond, or red-haired people with blue or green eyes are most at risk.

Actinic Cheilitis (Farmer's Lip)
Related to actinic keratosis, actinic cheilitis is a precancerous condition that usually appears on the lower lips. Scaly patches or persistent roughness of the lips may be present. Less common symptoms include swelling of the lip, loss of the sharp border between the lip and skin, and prominent lip lines. Actinic cheilitis may evolve into invasive squamous cell carcinoma if not treated .

Cutaneous Horns
The cutaneous horn appears as a funnel-shaped growth that extends from a red base on the skin. It is composed of compacted keratin (the same protein in nails). It is a specialized type of actininc keratosis. The size and shape of the growth can vary considerably, but most are a few millimeters in length. Squamous cell carcinoma can be found at the base. It usually occurs in fair-skinned elderly adults with a history of significant sun exposure.

When Is a Mole a Problem?
A mole (nevus) is a benign growth of melanocytes, cells that gives skin its color. Although very few moles become cancer, abnormal or atypical moles can develop into melanoma over time. "Normal" moles can appear flat or raised or may begin flat and become raised over time. The surface is typically smooth. Moles that may have changed into skin cancer are often irregularly shaped, contain many colors, and are larger than the size of a pencil eraser. Most moles develop in youth or young adulthood. It's unusual to acquire a mole in the adult years.

Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles)
Atypical moles are not cancer, but they can become cancer. They can be found in sun-exposed or sun-protected areas of the body. Atypical moles may be larger (one-quarter inch across or larger) and more irregular in shape, with notched or fading borders. They may be flat or raised or the surface smooth or rough. They are typically of mixed color, including pink, red, tan, and brown.

Know Your ABCDEs
Most moles on a person's body look similar to one another. A mole or freckle that looks different from the others or that has any characteristics of the ABCDEs of melanoma should be checked by a dermatologist. It could be cancerous. The ABCDEs are important characteristics to consider when examining your moles or other skin growths, so learn them in the slides to come.

Tips for Screening Moles for Cancer
Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the "hidden" areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles.



Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you're a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.




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