Skin cancer on face – causes, symptoms and early signs, prevention of face cancer

Medically reviewed: 24, January 2024

Read Time:12 Minute

Types of skin cancer on face

Malignant lesion of the skin is among the most common forms of cancer. Skin cancer on face in most cases occurs after the age of 50 years, but the disease is not excluded in young people. Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body, but there are tumors that “like to grow” in certain areas of the body. This article will talk about malignant tumors that can appear as cancer on face.

These tumors consist of squamous cell skin cancer and basal cell carcinoma, also known as basal cell skin cancer.

The prognosis depends on the type of skin cancer. So, melanoma is considered the most aggressive, therefore, rapid metastasis to the liver and brain is observed. If the disease is diagnosed at the stage of metastasis, the illness is no longer curable.

Squamous cell carcinoma cancer on face

Squamous cell carcinoma grows from skin cells – keratinocytes, and belongs to epithelial tumors. This is a fairly common type of cancer. Of all tumors of epithelial origin, squamous cell carcinoma accounts for 20%.

Features of the occurrence of squamous cell skin cancer:

  • Age;

This type of tumor is more often detected in adulthood – after 65 years. It is extremely rarely diagnosed in children.

  • Gender;

Men get sick more often than women.

  • Color of the skin.

According to some reports, the color of the skin also matters. Observations show that this type of tumor is more common in fair-skinned and red-haired people.

Predisposing factors

It has been noted that squamous cell skin cancer rarely occurs on unaltered skin; more often, the development of the tumor process is preceded by some pathological processes:

  • If we analyze the areas of the body where it most often develops, these will be open areas of the body that are systematically exposed to solar insolation.
  • Quite often, squamous cell carcinoma occurs in areas of the skin that are constantly exposed to mechanical irritation, as well as in areas of post-traumatic or burn scars.
  • There is a connection with some skin diseases: psoriasis, genital warts, lichen planus, xeroderma pigmentosum, lupus erythematosus and some others are considered precancerous conditions against which skin cancer can develop.

Squamous cell carcinoma localization on face

As mentioned above, squamous cell carcinoma selects areas of the body that are not protected from the sun. In 70% of cases this person:

  • Nose;
  • Areas around the eyes;
  • Forehead;
  • Sides of the forehead;
  • Ears.

What does squamous cell skin cancer look like?

A malignant neoplasm is a node whose color is practically indistinguishable from normal skin. Sometimes the color of the node may have a brown or red tint. Crusts may form on its surface, and the surface may bleed.

Based on clinical manifestations, there are several forms of this type of skin cancer:

  • Ulcerative-infiltrative;

It is characterized by the formation of a dense nodule in the skin, which ulcerates over time. The center of the node resembles an ulcer. An unpleasant odor may emanate from the formation, and the ulcer bleeds when touched.

  • Papillary;

Initially, a dense nodule is formed in the skin, which quickly grows into many tubercles located above the skin level. The formation resembles a “cauliflower” in appearance. The color of the tumor has a red or brown tint due to the numerous small vessels that penetrate the tumor.

  • Veruccous form.

The tumor looks like a yellow-brown area of keratinization, covered with crusts and warty growths.

Complaints of squamous cell carcinoma cancer on face

Like other malignant tumors, in the initial stages of its development, skin cancer does not cause any unpleasant symptoms that could force the patient to see a doctor. The only complaint at this stage may be the presence of a formation on the face, which causes inconvenience in terms of aesthetics.

Why is squamous cell carcinoma dangerous?

This is a malignant process, in which the mortality rate is currently quite high. One notable characteristic of squamous cell carcinoma is its capability to metastasize, which refers to the process of spreading and affecting other organs within the body.

The most common tumors that metastasize are those located in the ears, nasolabial folds and around the eyes. Metastases can penetrate the lymph nodes, facial bones, brain, and internal organs.

The tendency to metastasize is determined by the histological type of structure of squamous cell carcinoma, the degree of differentiation, as well as the size of the tumor – the larger the diameter of the tumor, the higher the risk of invasive growth and the formation of metastases.

Basal cell skin cancer (basalioma) on face

Another type of cancer that is often localized on the skin of the face is basal cell carcinoma. This type of malignant tumor is also epithelial and grows from epidermal cells or hair follicles. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common epithelial tumor. It accounts for up to 75% of cases.

Features of the occurrence of basal cell skin cancer:

  • Gender;

It is more often detected in males.

  • Age;

Basalioma mainly targets older people. It is most often recorded in patients over 60 years of age, and the incidence only increases with increasing age.

  • Color of the skin; The level of melanin in the skin also matters – basal cell carcinoma is more often diagnosed in people with fair skin and is almost never found in African Americans.

Risk factors:

  • The tumor most often develops in people who like to sunbathe in the sun or whose work involves prolonged exposure to the sun.
  • Predisposing factors are the presence of freckles on the skin and xeroderma pigmentosum.

Basalioma localization on face

Basalioma, like squamous cell carcinoma, chooses open areas, and most often this is the skin of the face. Favorite localizations on the face:

  • Area of nasolabial folds;
  • Wings of the nose;
  • Eyelids, corners of eyes;
  • Upper lip;
  • Temporal areas.

What does skin basal cell carcinoma look like?

Basal cell carcinoma can have various appearances. Depending on the clinical picture, oncologists distinguish the following forms of basal cell carcinoma, which differ not only in appearance, but also in cellular structure:

  • Nodular (nodular) form;

The neoplasm is a rounded pink nodule; when mechanically applied to the surface of the nodule, it bleeds easily.

  • Surface form;

The tumor appears as a pink spot with a shiny surface, slightly elevated above the skin level.

  • Ulcerative form;

The primary nodule ulcerates over time, developing into an ulcerative defect that can reach large sizes.

  • Flat shape;

In the form of a flat, flesh-colored plaque, it may look like a scar.

  • Infiltrative form;

A combination of nodular and flat forms, this variant has a progressive course and a poor prognosis.

  • Pigment form;

The tumor element contains a large amount of skin pigment. Externally it may resemble melanoma.

  • Metatypical variant of basal cell carcinoma.

Combines signs of squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma at the same time. The most malignant form, which often metastasizes.

Why is basal cell carcinoma dangerous?

Basal cell carcinoma differs from squamous cell carcinoma in that it grows very slowly and has a low ability to metastasize. Since the disease proceeds without pain for a long time, patients consult a doctor most often at advanced stages (years later). However, basal cell carcinoma can spread to underlying tissue, destroying muscle and bone tissue, which can ultimately be fatal.

Metastases in basal cell carcinoma rarely occur, but if they are detected, this indicates advanced stages of the tumor process or its poorly differentiated forms. In such cases, the chances of recovery remain very low.

What is melanoma cancer on face?

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer that arises from the cells that produce the pigment melanin, this element that adds pigmentation to your skin, hair, and eyes.

Melanoma can affect any part of your body, but it is especially dangerous when it occurs on your face, as it can spread quickly to other organs and tissues, and cause severe complications. In this article, we will explain what melanoma on face is, what causes it, how to recognize it, how to treat it and how to prevent it.

Melanoma on face is not very common, but it is one of the most deadly types of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, about 7, 180 people in the United States will die from melanoma in 2021, and about 10% of them will have melanoma on face. The survival rate for melanoma on face depends on the stage of the disease, the location and size of the tumor, and the overall health of the patient. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the prognosis.

Melanoma, a type of malignant skin cancer that primarily develops on the face, is predominantly triggered by prolonged and continuous exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation emitted by the sun or artificial devices like tanning beds and lamps. This potentially life-threatening condition arises when the skin’s pigment-producing cells, known as melanocytes, undergo uncontrollable growth and multiplication, resulting in the formation of cancerous tumors.
This harmful radiation penetrates the skin and adversely affects the genetic material, known as DNA, within the skin cells, which can lead to mutations and abnormal growth. Some people are more susceptible to develop melanoma on face than others, due to factors such as:

  • Fair skin, light hair and eyes, or freckles
  • Having a history of sunburns, especially in childhood or adolescence
  • Large number of moles or unusual moles on your face or body

In addition to various other factors, having a family or personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers can increase the risk of developing these conditions, which means that individuals with relatives who have had these types of cancer or have had it themselves are more likely to develop it.

Individuals with a compromised immune system, whether due to underlying medical conditions or the use of certain medications, face heightened challenges in their body’s ability to effectively fight against cancerous cells.

Consequently, this augmented vulnerability significantly increases the likelihood of developing skin cancers such as melanoma.

Similarly, certain genetic syndromes like xeroderma pigmentosum or familial atypical mole-melanoma syndrome can also heighten the risk of developing skin cancer. These syndromes are hereditary conditions that make individuals more prone to developing this type of cancer.

Melanoma on face can appear as a new or changing mole, spot, bump or patch on your skin. It can vary in size, shape, color and texture, and it may bleed, itch or hurt. To help you identify melanoma on face, you can use the ABCDE rule, which stands for:

  1. Asymmetry. Asymmetry means that one side of the mole doesn’t look the same as the other side.
  2. Border. The border is the edge of the mole, and if it looks uneven or blurry, that’s not a good sign.
  3. Color. The color of the mole can be different shades, like different colors of brown, black, red, white, or blue.
  4. Diameter. If the mole is bigger than the eraser on a pencil, that’s a problem. And if the mole changes in size, shape, color, or how it looks over time, that’s not good either.
  5. Evolving. If you notice any of these signs, you should go to a special skin doctor right away. They can help you and make sure you get better.

Melanoma on face is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition, but it can be treated and cured if detected and treated early.

Early signs of skin cancer on face

To promptly consult a doctor, you need to know the first signs of a malignant degeneration of moles.

These include:

  • increase in a nevus within several months;
  • discoloration (darkening, lightening, pigmentation heterogeneity, enlightenment in the center);
  • violation of the form (asymmetry);
  • unclear outlines (the boundaries become “blurred”, which makes it impossible to accurately determine the size of the education);
  • pain sensations;
  • the appearance of an erosive defect on the surface of a mole.

If the birthmark was not originally on the skin, then the person first notes its appearance, and then its further transformation.

Symptoms of a mature cancer on face

Skin cancer is represented by several types of formations:

  • Melanoma;
  • Squamous cell carcinoma;
  • Basalioma (basal cell carcinoma).

The most commonly diagnosed surface melanoma, which is localized in the upper skin layers. Above the skin, it slightly protrudes, visually resembles a normal nevus.

Nodular melanoma is observed in 25% of all melanomas. It is considered the most aggressive type. Externally, it looks like a nodule with a dark color, elevated above the surface.

In people over the age of 70 on the head, in the neck area, melanoma-lentigo is diagnosed. It rises somewhat above the surface. The subungual form is manifested by the formation of formation under the thumb nail.

Squamous cell type, basal cell carcinoma less aggressive, therefore, respond well to treatment. They are manifested by a crack, wound focus on the face, neck, which do not heal for a long time.

When to go to the doctor?

It is recommended to consult a doctor when the first signs of the malignant transformation of the mole appear. In order to timely detect the pathological process, it is necessary to regularly review all the nevi that are on the body, especially in the open areas of the skin.

Particular attention should be paid to nevi, which are located in an area with constant friction, for example, in the area of ​​cuffs, gates, bras, belts. In this case, it is recommended to consult with a doctor in advance about which moles should be removed without waiting for their malignancy.

What is included in the diagnosis of skin cancer on face?

Diagnosis of skin cancer involved an oncologist, after a preliminary examination of the dermatologist. The diagnostic process includes a visual inspection of a modified nevus or a mole that first appeared.

From instrumental diagnostics, a smear (imprint) examination under a microscope is used. This technique is carried out most often, as it does not require injury to education.

Histological analysis is performed for suspected cancer pathology. In this case, the material is examined to identify atypical structures, cells.

In order to detect metastases (closely spaced, distant), the oncologist prescribes an additional diagnosis. It involves the use of ultrasound, computed, magnetic resonance imaging. If necessary, an aiming puncture is performed, followed by histological analysis.

Modern treatment of face cancer

When identifying metastases, the prognosis is significantly worse. Treatment of skin cancer on the face involves the removal of a malignant lesion in a surgical way. The material is subjected to histological examination.

In addition to surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are prescribed. Thanks to an integrated approach, the primary focus is removed, the remaining cancer cells are destroyed during irradiation, chemotherapy. Thus, further metastasis is prevented. If secondary foci of screening have already been identified, chemotherapy will reduce the rate of their increase and the further spread of altered cells throughout the body.

This article is written by

Cassandra Westwood - dermatologist
Cassandra Westwood - dermatologist
Dr. Cassandra Westwood is a board-certified dermatologist with a comprehensive background in dermatological care. She obtained her medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Throughout her career, Dr. Westwood has contributed to various healthcare institutions, including her tenure at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she specialized in the diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders. Her clinical proficiency extends to managing a diverse range of dermatological conditions, such as acne, psoriasis, and skin cancers.

Presently, Dr. Westwood serves as a dermatologist for NetdoctorWeb, a prominent online health platform. In her role, she distills her clinical experience and expertise into accessible articles, offering valuable insights on skin health and dermatological concerns. Through her work, she contributes to the dissemination of accurate and reliable health information to a wider audience.

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