Uncommon Skin Cancer Types

With skin cancer on the rise in the US, cancer type awareness is becoming more and more important. Some of the types are well-known, because the majority of cases fall into these categories. However, there are rare forms which are not that common but lethal; some of them are especially dangerous, as they look benign.

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Merkel Cell Carcinoma

This type of skin cancer is one of the most dangerous ones, because it is aggressive and looks innocent. Even experienced dermatologists sometimes fail to diagnose it upon examining the patient, as it looks like firm lumps on or in the skin. The lumps do not cause pain and may differ in color: they can be blue-violet, red or pink.

One of the characteristics of this skin cancer type is that in most cases it is found on body parts exposed to sunlight, including arms, head, legs and neck. The cancer is very aggressive and capable of killing a person within several months of diagnosing. That is why careful examination is needed. However, in the case of Merkel cell carcinoma, it can be difficult to determine whether it’s a malignant tumor or something harmless—the cancer takes a form which rarely looks suspicious. Yet it is up to dermatologists not to neglect such cases, as such forms of skin cancer should be treated ASAP.

Another distinctive feature of this cancer type is that in the majority of cases the thing driving the disease is a virus called Merkel cell polyomavirus. That is why immunotherapies are supposed to become the best candidates when developing a therapy for the disease.

Sebaceous gland carcinoma

Another kind of skin cancers, sebaceous carcinoma is rarely seen but very difficult to treat. It often mimics other cancer forms, and it’s a challenge to diagnose it.

It can appear in a skin oil gland and is most often found on the upper eyelid. However, it can be on any part of the body with hair. It looks yellowish because of the lipids in the affected cells. This form is highly aggressive and capable of forming distant metastases. The disease is most often diagnosed in elderly women.

Besides its aggressiveness, the reason for naming the cancer type among one of the most dangerous forms is that it can masquerade as chalazion, blepharo-conjunctivitis and other conditions. That is why it is of utmost importance to examine all cases that look suspicious.

Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans

Although rare, dermatofibrosacroma protuberans is an aggressive form of skin cancer. It rarely metastasizes, but it is difficult to remove, because it gets into deeper layers of skin, muscles and bones. It manifests as a plaque of irregular shape and color, which can vary from violaceous to red. DFSP is an uncommon type of skin cancer, but early diagnosis is one of the factors which can contribute to successful treatment.

Self-exams matter

Visiting a dermatologist often to examine all parts of your body is inconvenient and costly. It is up to you to scan your skin to find out whether there are areas which look suspicious.

Skin exams must be regular, and if exams carried out by a GP can be undergone at least once a year, self-exams must be performed monthly, especially if you have experienced long periods of sun exposure and other risk factors.

Look at all parts of your body and try to remember the pattern of your blemishes so that you can notice when something changes. Do not neglect any body parts, even if they are hard-to-see, because, for example, most melanomas attack upper back and legs, e.g. the areas which are usually not paid much attention. Use mirrors to exam skin which you cannot see.

Look for nodules and lesions which are reddish or of some other strange color, flaky patches, bumps of various kinds (including firm ones), changes in moles, and bleeding soles. Pay special attention to your moles: if one of them is itching, brings you pain, grows, has an irregular shape or color or manifests some other signs of disease, do not hesitate to show it to your GP and dermatologist.


Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans – Emedicine.medscape.com
Skin Self-Examination – WebMD.com
Sebaceous Gland Carcinoma of the Eyelid – Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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