Skin Cancer Dictionary

I got this skin cancer dictionary from NCI Publication's


actinic keratosis (ak-TIN-ik ker-a-TOE-sis): A precancerous condition of thick, scaly patches of skin. Also called solar or senile keratosis.

anesthetics (an-es-THET-iks): Substances that cause loss of feeling or awareness. Local anesthetics cause loss of feeling in a part of the body. General anesthetics put the person to sleep.

basal cell carcinoma (BAY-sal sel kar-sin-O-ma): A type of skin cancer that arises from the basal cells, small round cells found in the lower part (or base) of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin.

basal cells (BAY-sal): Small, round cells found in the lower part (or base) of the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin.

benign (beh-NINE): Not cancerous; does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.

biological therapy (by-o-LAHJ-i-kul): Treatment to stimulate or restore the ability of the immune system to fight infection and disease. Also used to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Also known as immunotherapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier (BRM) therapy.

biopsy (BY-ahp-see): A procedure used to remove cells or tissues to look at them under a microscope and check for signs of disease. When an entire tumor or lesion is removed, the procedure is called an excisional biopsy. When only a sample of tissue is removed, the procedure is called an incisional biopsy or core biopsy. When a sample of tissue or fluid is removed with a needle, the procedure is called a needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration.

cancer: A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can invade nearby tissues and can spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body.

carcinoma (kar-sin-O-ma): Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

chemotherapy (kee-mo-THER-a-pee): Treatment with anticancer drugs.

clinical trial: A research study that tests how well new medical treatments or other interventions work in people. Each study is designed to test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease.

cryosurgery (KRYE-o-SIR-jer-ee): Treatment performed with an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissues. This procedure is a form of cryotherapy.

curettage (kyoo-reh-TAHZH): Removal of tissue with a curette, a spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge.

curette (kyoo-RET): A spoon-shaped instrument with a sharp edge.

dermatologist (der-ma-TAH-lo-jist): A doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin problems.

dermis (DER-mis): The lower or inner layer of the two main layers of tissue that make up the skin.

electrodesiccation (e-LEK-tro-des-ih-KAY-shun): The drying of tissue by a high-frequency electric current applied with a needle-shaped electrode.

epidermis (ep-i-DER-mis): The upper or outer layer of the two main layers of tissue that make up the skin.

fluorouracil (floor-o-YOOR-a-sil): An anticancer drug that belongs to the family of drugs called antimetabolites.

hair follicles (FOL-i-kuls): Shafts or openings on the surface of the skin through which hair grows.

interferon (in-ter-FEER-on): A biological response modifier (a substance that can improve the body's natural response to disease). Interferons interfere with the division of cancer cells and can slow tumor growth. There are several types of interferons, including interferon-alpha, -beta, and -gamma. These substances are normally produced by the body. They are also made in the laboratory for use in treating cancer and other diseases.

laser (LAY-zer): A device that concentrates light into an intense, narrow beam used to cut or destroy tissue. It is used in microsurgery, photodynamic therapy, and for a variety of diagnostic purposes.

lymph node: A rounded mass of lymphatic tissue that is surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Also known as a lymph gland. Lymph nodes are spread out along lymphatic vessels and contain many lymphocytes, which filter the lymphatic fluid (lymph).

malignant (ma-LIG-nant): Cancerous; a growth with a tendency to invade and destroy nearby tissue and spread to other parts of the body.

melanin (MEL-a-nin): The substance that gives the skin its color.

melanocytes (mel-AN-o-sites): Cells in the skin that produce and contain the pigment called melanin.

melanoma: A form of skin cancer that arises in melanocytes, the cells that produce pigment. Melanoma usually begins in a mole.

metastasize (meh-TAS-ta-size): To spread from one part of the body to another. When cancer cells metastasize and form secondary tumors, the cells in the metastatic tumor are like those in the original (primary) tumor.

nonmelanoma skin cancer: Skin cancer that arises in basal cells or squamous cells but not in melanocytes (pigment-producing cells of the skin).

pathologist (pa-THOL-o-jist): A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

photodynamic therapy (fo-toe-dye-NAM-ik): Treatment with drugs that become active when exposed to light and kill cancer cells.

plastic surgeon: A surgeon who specializes in reducing scarring or disfigurement that may occur as a result of accidents, birth defects, or treatment for diseases.

precancerous (pre-KAN-ser-us): A term used to describe a condition that may (or is likely to) become cancer. Also called premalignant.

prognosis (prog-NO-sis): The likely outcome or course of a disease; the chance of recovery or recurrence.

radiation therapy (ray-dee-AY-shun): The use of high-energy radiation from x-rays, neutrons, and other sources to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body (external-beam radiation therapy) or from material called radioisotopes. Radioisotopes produce radiation and can be placed in or near a tumor or near cancer cells. This type of radiation treatment is called internal radiation therapy, implant radiation, or brachytherapy. Systemic radiation therapy uses a radioactive substance such as a radiolabeled monoclonal antibody that circulates throughout the body. Also called radiotherapy.

recur: To occur again. Recurrence is the return of cancer, at the same site as the original (primary) tumor or in another location, after the tumor had disappeared.

sebum (SEE-bum): An oily substance produced by certain glands in the skin.

skin graft: Skin that is moved from one part of the body to another.

SPF: Sun protection factor, scale for rating the level of sunburn protection in sunscreen products. The higher the SPF, the more sunburn protection it provides. Sunscreens with an SPF value of 2 through 11 provide minimal protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with an SPF of 12 through 29 provide moderate protection, which is adequate for most people. Those with an SPF of 30 or higher provide high protection against sunburn and are sometimes recommended for people who are highly sensitive to the sun.

squamous cell carcinoma (SKWAY-mus. . .kar-sin-O-ma): Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells resembling fish scales. Squamous cells are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, the lining of the hollow organs of the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts. Also called epidermoid carcinoma.

squamous cells (SKWAY-mus): Flat cells that look like fish scales under a microscope. These cells cover internal and external surfaces of the body.

sunscreen: A substance that helps protect the skin from the sun's harmful rays. Sunscreens reflect, absorb, and scatter both UVA and UVB radiation. Using lotions, creams, or gels that contain sunscreens can help protect the skin from premature aging and damage that may lead to skin cancer.

surgery: A procedure to remove or repair a part of the body or to find out whether disease is present.

topical chemotherapy (kee-mo-THER-a-pee): Treatment with anticancer drugs in a lotion or cream applied to the skin.

tumor (TOO-mer): An abnormal mass of tissue that results from excessive cell division. Tumors perform no useful body function. They may be benign (not cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

tumor necrosis factor (TOO-mer ne-KRO-sis): A type of biological response modifier (a substance that can improve the body's natural response to disease).

ultraviolet radiation (ul-tra- VYE-o-let ray-dee-AY-shun): Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun. UV radiation can damage the skin and cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. UV radiation that reaches the earth's surface is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely than UVA rays to cause sunburn, but UVA rays pass deeper into the skin. Scientists have long thought that UVB radiation can cause melanoma and other types of skin cancer. They now think that UVA radiation also may add to skin damage that can lead to skin cancer and cause premature aging. For this reason, skin specialists recommend that people use sunscreens that reflect, absorb, or scatter both kinds of UV radiation.


Skin Cancer Dictionary