Five Rare Skin Cancers to Know

While the rates of skin cancer in the United States is on the rise, the vast majority of these cases are limited to the three most common forms of skin cancer – melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. However, there are other forms of skin cancer which, while less common, are no less serious.

1) Kaposi Sarcoma

This cancer develops from cells lining the blood and lymphatic vessels. “It is known to be caused by the Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus which is especially dangerous to those with compromised immune systems, such as patients with HIV,” explains Dr. Adam Mamelak, a board-certified dermatologist and skin cancer specialist in Austin, Texas. KS often causes brown, red, or purple splotches on the skin and can in some cases cause painful swelling of the legs. Lesions in the lungs, digestive track, and liver can cause severe damage and may even be fatal.

2) Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans

This is a cancer which is usually found in the limbs and trunk in the form of small hard nodules. “It resides in the dermis and grows slowly, but can be locally aggressive, invading surrounding tissues and structures.” Dr. Mamelak treats these tumors with Mohs micrographic surgery, a technique noted for its exceedingly high cure rate in patients with these types of tumors.

3) Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma

This is actually a group of cancers that can occur when a white blood cell (known as a T-lymphocyte) becomes cancerous. In most types, the skin develops flat, red patches which may be scaly or itchy, similar to eczema or psoriasis. “The most common type of Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma is referred to as Mycosis fungoides,” says Dr. Mamelak. “Men are twice as likely as women to develop this cancer and most people diagnosed with it are older, usually over 50 years old.”

4) Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel cell carcinoma is a cancer that forms just under or on the skin and presents as painless lumps which can be pink, blue, violet, or red in color. These lumps occur on areas which are exposed to the sun the most such as the arms, legs, and around the eyes.

5) Sebaceous carcinoma

This is a slow-growing and aggressive form of skin cancer which develops in the oil glands of the skin. It’s most commonly found in the skin around the eyes, but has also been found in other areas of the face and trunk. “Sebaceous carcinoma has been associated with Muir-Torre Syndrome, a genetic condition where patients are predisposed to develop intestinal and genitourinary malignancies as well.”

Contact Us

Dr. Mamelak treats skin cancer patients at Sanova Dermatology and the Austin Mohs Surgery Center. For more information on skin cancer, common risk factors, and prevention or to have your skin checked by our dermatologist, please contact us.

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