People sometimes think that any growth or change that occurs in their skin is skin cancer. This isn't true. Although all skin growths and changes should be checked out by a doctor, most will turn out not to be cancer.
Most growths on the skin are benign. Benign growths are not cancer and almost never turn into cancer. These growths include:
Most types of moles
Seborrheic keratoses - these are raised spots, often darker in color than the rest of the individual's skin, that may feel rough or have a waxy texture
Hemangiomas - these are growths involving the blood vessels (sometimes called strawberry marks or port wine stains)
Lipomas - these are growths made up of fat cells
Warts - these are growths with a rough surface that are caused by a virus
There are also some skin conditions that are not cancer but could turn into cancer. They are called precancerous conditions.
One common type of precancerous skin condition is called actinic keratosis or solar keratosis. Actinic keratoses are small rough spots that may be pink-red or the same color as the rest of the individual's skin. They develop on areas of the skin exposed to the sun, and people who develop one usually develop others. Actinic keratoses grow slowly. Sometimes they go away on their own, but they may come back.
The main concern about actinic keratoses is that occasionally, they may turn into squamous cell carcinoma. Also, the fact that a person has them is a warning that the skin has been damaged by exposure to the sun. For both of these reasons, people with actinic keratoses should have their skin checked regularly by a doctor. If the doctor sees signs that an actinic keratosis may be developing into skin cancer, the growth may need to be removed.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma In Situ (Bowen Disease)
Another precancerous skin condition is called squamous cell carcinoma in situ or Bowen disease. This is the earliest form of squamous cell skin cancer, affecting only the uppermost layer of the skin.
Like actinic keratosis, squamous cell carcinoma in situ appears as reddish patches, but the patches tend to be larger, redder, more scaly, and perhaps crusty. Doctors treat these patches in several different ways; some involve the use of medicines, while others involve various surgical techniques for removing the patch.