The nose is a common site for skin cancer, due to its exposure to the sun. Skin cancer will affect one in five people over their lifetime, with the highest risk group being those with light skin, eyes and hair. Fortunately, cancer on the nose is easily visible. Early detection and treatment of cancer on the nose decreases the risk of the cancer spreading or metastasizing to other areas.
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Ultraviolet, or UV, rays from the sun damage the skin cells, causing around 90 percent of skin cancers, the Skin Cancer Foundation reported in 2010. Because the nose is on the face--one of the areas at highest risk for developing skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society--skin cancer frequently develops there. Use of tanning beds, exposure to X-rays or other types of radiation, living at a high elevation or in a place with more intense sunlight for longer periods of time, a family history of skin cancer and a history of severe sunburn as a child all increase the risk of developing skin cancer on the nose.
Skin cancers on the nose fall into two categories: melanoma and non-melanoma. Non-melanoma cancers that affect the nose can be basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma, with 75 percent of non-melanoma skin cancer being basal cell carcinoma, Medline Plus stated in 2008. Basal cell cancer, which grows slowly, rarely spreads to other parts of the body but can spread into areas around the nose, destroying nearby tissues and bone. Squamous cell cancer also can occur on sun-exposed areas such as the nose, the Skin Cancer Foundation states, and can spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Melanomas, a more dangerous type of skin cancer, starts in the melanocytes, the cells that give skin its color. If diagnosed early, 91 percent of people with melanoma survive five years, according to 2007 statistics, the American Cancer Society reports.
Because cancer on the nose is so visible, a change in the skin is easy to notice. Basal cell carcinoma causes a small pearly white, pink, tan or brown, waxy bump. A sore on the nose that doesn’t heal, or that bleeds easily; irregular bloods vessels on the nose; or a scar-like appearance without any history of injury can also indicate basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell cancer may resemble a firm red bump or ulceration that doesn’t heal, the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary says. Melanomas often grow in a mole that changes color or size.
Cancer on the nose is usually treated by surgical removal either by cutting away the tumor or by scraping it off and then using electrodessication to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Mohs surgery examines the cell removed immediately for signs of cancer; removal of skin layers continues until the specimen contains no cancer cells, MedlinePlus explains.
Wearing sunscreen of at last 15 SPF and reapplying frequently when in the sun, as well as staying out of the sun between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, are the most effective ways to avoid skin cancer of the nose, the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary states.