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There are three main kinds of skin cancer: Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, the most lethal form (shown at left). In addition, there are "precancers" called actinic keratoses, along with iffy moles (dysplastic nevi) that could be worrisome. Keep clicking as Dr. Michele Green, a skin cancer expert in New York City, walks us through photos showing the things you should be looking for. The images are graphic, but looking at them just might save your life, or that of someone you love.
Here's a hand with several actinic keratoses - all those red, scaly patches. These back-of-the-hand lesions are common in older golfers and others who spend a lot of time outdoors. Without treatment, actinic keratoses can turn into a form of cancer known as squamous cell carcinoma.
This could be an actinic keratosis or squamous cell carcinoma. In general, the prognosis is good for people with squamous cell carcinoma. But a squamous cell carcinoma that develops on the lips or another mucous membrane is more likely to spread (metastasize) - and in rare instances metastatic squamous cell carcinoma proves deadly.
Asymmetry is another worrisome sign - that is, when one half of the lesion doesn't look like the other. This happens to be a dysplastic nevus, but asymmetry is also a hallmark of melanoma.
A melanoma this thick is almost certain to prove lethal.