Resource Center

Glossary

A-B C-D E-G H-K L-O P-R S-T U-Z

A-B

Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM)

The least common form of melanoma, or malignant skin tumor. It usually develops on the palms, soles of the feet, under the nails or in mucous membranes that line the mouth, nose and female genitals.

Actinic Cheilitis

A form of actinic keratosis that most often occurs on the lower lip and causes it to become dry, cracked, scaly and pale or white.

Actinic Keratosis (AK)

A precancerous skin condition that has a rough, scaly, slightly raised growth that ranges in color from brown to red. It is about one millimeter to one inch in diameter and found on sun-damaged areas of the body, most often in older people. AK is also known as solar keratosis (SK).

Adjunctive Therapy

Any treatment that is added to the main treatment, such as radiation therapy after surgery.

Adjuvant Therapy

Treatment used after the main treatment to increase the chances of a cure. These may include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy or biological therapy.

Anesthetic

A drug that causes loss of feeling or awareness. A local anesthetic causes loss of feeling in a part of the body. A general anesthetic puts a person to sleep.

Asymmetry

Unevenness, lop-sidedness or irregularity.

Basal Cells

Small, round skin cells that are formed in the top layer of the skin, which is called the epidermis.

Basal Cell Cancer (BCC)

A type of skin cancer that develops in the small, round basal cells that are found in the outer layer of the skin. It is the most common form of skin cancer and is a non-melanoma cancer. BCC is also known as basal cell carcinoma.

Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome

A rare, inherited illness that may include a number of abnormal conditions, such as developing several basal cell carcinomas, small pits on the palms and soles, and jaw cysts. It is also known as Gorlin’s syndrome.

Benign

Non-cancerous and not life-threatening. A benign tumor does not spread to nearby tissue or other parts of the body.

Biological Therapy

Treatment that helps the immune system fight infections and other diseases. It may also be used to reduce side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. It is also known as immunotherapy.

Biopsy

The removal of tissue samples from the body. The samples are then viewed under a microscope to make a diagnosis.

Bowen’s Disease

Skin disease that consists of scaly or thickened patches. The patches often occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin, in older white men or by over exposure to the chemical arsenic. The disease is also called precancerous dermatosis or precancerous dermatitis.

C-D

Cancer

A term for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control. Cancer cells can enter nearby tissues and can spread to other parts of the body.

Carcinoma

Cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) Scan

A series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body that are created by a computer attached to an x-ray machine.

Chemotherapy

The use of chemical-based drugs for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Curettage

Removal of tissue with a spoon-shaped surgical instrument.

Curette

A spoon-shaped surgical instrument with a sharp edge.

Cryosurgery

A procedure in which tissue is frozen to destroy abnormal cells. Liquid nitrogen or liquid carbon dioxide is used to freeze the tissue.

Cycstic Basal Cell Carcinoma

A rare form of basal cell cancer. It is a different form of nodular basal cell carcinoma. The nodules or lumps are filled with a gelatin-like fluid.

Cytokine

A substance that is made by cells of the immune system.

Dermis

It is one of the three main layers of tissue that make up the skin and lies directly underneath the epidermis, or outer layer of skin.

Dermoscopy

A procedure to look at spots on the skin more clearly. It is also known as dermatoscopy, epiluminescence microscopy (ELM) or surface microscopy.

Dermatoscope

An instrument to examine the skin that utilizes a bright light and a magnifying lens.

Dermatoscopy

A procedure to look at spots on the skin more clearly. It is also known as dermoscopy, epiluminescence microscopy (ELM) or surface microscopy.

Dysplastic Nevi

Atypical or abnormal moles.

E-G

Electrodesiccation

An electric current is delivered through a needle-shaped instrument to control bleeding in or on the skin.

Electrodesiccation and Curettage

A surgical procedure used to remove small skin cancers with a surgical instrument called a curette. After the growth is removed, an electric current is delivered to the area to control bleeding and destroy any residual cancer cells.

Epidermis

The thin, top and outermost layer of the skin. It is one of the three main layers of the skin.

Epiluminescence Microscopy (ELM)

A procedure to look at spots on the skin more clearly. It is also known as dermatoscopy, dermoscopy or surface microscopy.

Excisional Biopsy

A surgical procedure in which an entire lump or suspicious area is removed for examination and diagnosis.

Fibroepothelioma Basal Cell Carcinoma

A rare form of basal cell cancer, which consists of reddish lesions that appear on the back.

Fibrous

Consisting of fibers or in elongated threads.

Follicle

A sac or pouch-like cavity formed by a group of cells. In the skin, one follicle contains one hair.

Genital Area

Refers to the external and internal sex organs and glands.

Gland

An organ that makes one or more substances, such as hormones, digestive juices, sweat, tears, saliva or milk.

Gorlin’s Syndrome

A rare, inherited illness that may include a number of abnormal conditions, such as developing several basal cell carcinomas, small pits on the palms and soles and jaw cysts. It is also known as basal cell nevus syndrome.

H-K

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

The virus that causes AIDS.

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

A virus that causes abnormal tissue growth (warts) and is often linked with some types of cancer.

Hyperthermic Perfusion Chemotherapy

A cancer treatment where the drugs are heated and then injected into the bloodstream or into the part of the body that has the cancer, for example the arm or leg. The treatment is also known as isolated limb perfusion chemotherapy and isolated arterial perfusion chemotherapy.

Immune System

The group of organs and cells that defend the body against infection or disease.

Incisional Biopsy

A surgical procedure where a section of a lump or suspicious area is removed for examination and diagnosis.

Ionizing Radiation

A dangerous type of energy made by x-rays, radioactive substances and other sources. At high doses, ionizing radiation can lead to health risks, including cancer.

Immunotherapy

Treatment to stimulate or restore the immune system’s ability to fight infections and other diseases. It can be used to lessen side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments. Immunotherapy is also known as biological therapy.

Intravenous (IV) Chemotherapy

Drugs that treat cancer, which are given directly into a vein.

Isolated Arterial Perfusion Chemotherapy

A cancer treatment where the drugs are heated and then injected into the bloodstream or into the part of the body that has the cancer, for example the arm or leg. The treatment is also known as isolated limb perfusion chemotherapy. In cases where the drugs are heated before injection, the chemotherapy is called hyperthermic perfusion.

Isolated Limb Perfusion Chemotherapy

A cancer treatment where the drugs are injected into the bloodstream or into the part of the body that has the cancer, for example the arm or leg. The treatment is also known as isolated arterial perfusion chemotherapy. In cases where the drugs are heated before injection, the chemotherapy is called hyperthermic perfusion.

Keratin

A type of fibrous protein produced by keratinocytes. The hair and nails are made of keratin.

Keratinocytes

Cells in the epidermal or outer layer of the skin that produce the fibrous protein called keratin.

Keratoacanthoma

A dome-shaped, non-cancerous and rapidly growing skin tumor. It usually occurs on sun-exposed areas of the skin and can go away without treatment.

L-O

Lentigo Maligna Melanoma (LMM)

A malignant type of skin cancer that usually occurs in the elderly and is most common in sun-damaged skin on the face, neck, arms and legs. The abnormal skin areas are typically large, flat and tan with areas of brown. They tend to have irregular borders, uneven coloring and may be slightly raised.

Lesion

An area of abnormal tissue change.

Leukoplakia

A white patch that may develop on mucous membranes, such as the cheek, gums or tongue, and may become cancerous.

Local Anesthetic

A drug that causes loss of feeling or awareness to a specific part of the body.

Lymph Node

A bean-shaped organ surrounded by a connective tissue casing. It is part of the lymphatic system and found throughout the body. Its main function is disease protection.

Lymph Node Biopsy

A test in which a lymph node or a piece of a lymph node is removed for examination under a microscope for signs of infection or disease, such as cancer.

Lymph Node Dissection

Lymph nodes are removed in this surgical procedure and examined to see if they contain cancer. It is also called lymphadenectomy.

Lymphadenectomy

Lymph nodes are removed in this surgical procedure and examined to see if they contain cancer. It is also called lymph node dissection.

Lymphoma

Cancer that develops in cells of the lymphatic system.

Lymph Vessel

A thin-walled structure that carries tissue fluid to the lymph nodes.

Margin

The edge or border of the tissue removed in cancer surgery.

Melanin

A substance that gives the skin its color and also provides protection against the sun’s harmful rays.

Melanocytes

Cells in the skin and eyes that produce and contain the coloring called melanin.

Melanoma

A form of skin cancer that develops in melanocytes, the cells that produce the skin’s color. Melanoma usually begins in a mole. It is an aggressive type of skin cancer and can be dangerous if not detected, diagnosed and treated early.

Metastatic

A term referring to a tumor that has spread from its original site to another place in or on the body.

Metastasis

The spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another.

Metastasize

To spread from one part of the body to another.

Micrometastasis

Small numbers of cancer cells that have spread from the original tumor to other parts of the body. They are too small to be picked up in a screening or diagnostic test.

Macrometastasis

Cancer cells that have spread from the original tumor to other parts of the body. They are large enough to be seen without the aid of a microscope.

Macroscopic

Visible to the naked eye.

Microscopic

Too small to be seen except under a microscope.

Microstaging

A test to help determine the stage, or amount, of cancer cells present, and if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Mohs Surgery

A surgical procedure used to treat skin cancer. Individual layers of cancerous tissue are removed and examined under a microscope one at a time until all cancerous tissue has been removed.

Mole

A colored spot, mark or small, permanent, raised growth on the human body. It is also known as a nevus.

Morpheaform Basal Cell Carcinoma

A less-common type of basal cell skin cancer, which may look like a scar and be white or yellow in color. It usually grows quickly and can be almost an inch in length within a few months. It is also known as sclerosing basal cell carcinoma.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

A procedure in which radio waves and a powerful magnet linked to a computer are used to create detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures can show the difference between normal and diseased tissue.

Nevus

A colored spot, mark or small, permanent, raised growth on the human body. The plural of nevus is nevi.

Nodular Basal Cell Carcinoma

The most common type of basal cell skin cancer. It looks like a smooth, round pimple and may be pale yellow or gray in color.

Nodular Melanoma (NM)

It is the most serious and life-threatening form of skin cancer. NM may start as a bump or raised area that is dark blackish-blue or bluish-red, but some nodular melanomas do not have any color. It’s normally seen on the arms, legs and upper torso of an elderly person, and also grows quickly.

Non-cancerous

Benign and not life-threatening. Does not spread to nearby tissue or other parts of the body.

Non-melanoma Skin Cancer

Not an aggressive type of skin cancer. Basal cell skin cancer and squamous cell skin cancer are both non-melanoma skin cancers.

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Drugs that decrease fever, swelling, pain and redness and do not contain growth compounds.

P-R

Palliative Care

Care that prevents or relieves the symptoms of disease or the side effects of treatment. Palliative care does not change the outcome of a disease, but can improve the quality of life. It attempts to meet the physical, emotional, spiritual and practical needs of patients by helping to relieve pain, depression or other problems.

Palpable

A term used to describe cancer that can be felt by touch, usually present in lymph nodes, skin or other organs of the body.

Pathologist

A doctor who identifies diseases by studying cells and tissues under a microscope.

Pathology

The medical science concerned with all aspects of disease, but especially with the causes and development of abnormal conditions and diseases.

Pigmentation

The coloring of the skin, hair, mucous membranes and retina of the eye.

Pigmented Basal Cell Carcinoma

A skin cancer that can be similar to nodular basal cell carcinoma, but appears more often in people with dark eyes and hair. The nodules are brown or black and can be mistaken for melanoma skin cancer.

Photosensitivity

A skin condition that causes it to be extremely sensitive to sunlight. It is also called sun sensitivity.

Pore

A tiny opening in the skin’s surface that allows liquid or gas to pass through it.

Precancer

A tumor or growth with signs that it may become cancerous. It is also known as a precancerous growth or condition.

Precancerous Growth or Condition

A tumor or growth with signs that it may become cancerous. It is also known as a precancer.

Precancerous Dermatitis

A skin disease that consists of scaly or thickened patches. The patches often occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin in older white men or by over exposure to the chemical arsenic. The disease is also called precancerous dermatosis or Bowen’s disease.

Precancerous Dermatosis

Skin disease that consists of scaly or thickened patches. The patches often occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin in older white men or by over exposure to the chemical arsenic. The disease is also called Bowen’s disease or precancerous dermatitis.

Prevention

Taking action to stop something from happening, such as applying sunscreen to avoid developing skin cancer.

Punch Biopsy

Removal of a small disk-shaped sample of tissue, using a sharp, hollow surgical tool.

Radiation

Any kind of energy that is produced in the form of rays or waves, such as sunlight, heat or sound.

Radiation Therapy

The use of high-energy rays or waves to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. Radiation may come from a machine outside the body or from materials, which can be placed in or near the tumor or cancer cells.

Radioactive

A substance that produces energy as a stream of particles that gives off radiation.

Risk Factor

Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease.

S-T

Screening

Checking for a disease when there may be no symptoms of the disease.

Sebum

A thick, oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands that are located in the dermis.

Serum Lactate Dehydrogenase

An enzyme in the body that is measured during the microstaging process to help determine the extent of melanoma skin cancer.

Sclerosing Basal Cell Carcinoma

A less-common type of basal cell skin cancer, which may look like a scar and be white or yellow in color. It usually grows quickly and can be almost an inch in length within a few months. It is also known as morpheaform basal cell carcinoma.

Sentinel Lymph Node

The first lymph node where cancer is likely to spread from the initial tumor. Cancer cells may appear first in the sentinel node before spreading to other lymph nodes.

Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

Removal and examination of the sentinel lymph node.

Skin

An organ that makes up the external surface of the body. It consists of three main layers — epidermis, dermis and subcutaneous layer — and protects the body against germs, diseases and too much water loss.

Skin Biopsy

Removal of a portion of skin tissue, for microscopic examination. These types of skin biopsies include shave biopsy, punch biopsy, incisional biopsy and excisional biopsy.

Skin Cancer

Cancer that forms in the tissues of the skin.

Skin Graft

Skin that is moved from one part of the body to another to help heal the area that received the skin graft.

Skin Self-Exam (SSE)

Checking your own skin regularly for any abnormal growths or unusual changes.

Skin Ulcer

A lesion on the surface of the skin that may be caused by trauma, blood disease, diabetes, exposure to heat or cold, infection or staying in one position for a long time.

Shave Biopsy

A procedure that removes skin tissue by shaving off the top layers of skin with a surgical blade.

Solar Keratosis (SK)

A precancerous skin condition that has a rough, scaly, slightly raised growth that ranges in color from brown to red and is about one millimeter to one inch in diameter. It is found on sun-damaged areas of the body, most often in older people. SK is also known as actinic keratosis (AK).

Squamous Cells

Flat cells that look like fish scales under a microscope. These cells cover internal and external surfaces of the body.

Squamous Cell Cancer (SCC)

Cancer that begins in squamous cells. SCC is a non-melanoma cancer and also known as squamous cell carcinoma.

Staging

A test to help determine the stage, or amount, of cancer cells present, and if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

Stratum Corneum

The outermost or top layer of the epidermis.

Subcutaneous Layer

Fatty layer of tissue located under the dermis.

Sunscreen

A lotion, cream or gel that is spread over the skin to help protect it from the sun's harmful rays. Sunscreens protect against both ultraviolet A and B rays.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

A 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 two through 11 provide a small amount of protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with an SPF of 12 through 29 provide medium protection, which is acceptable 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.

Sun Sensitivity

A condition where the skin reacts easily to the sun’s rays by developing a rash, red patches or itching. It is also called photosensitivity.

Surgical Lymph Node Biopsy

A test where a lymph node or a piece of a lymph node is removed to examine under a microscope for signs of infection or disease, such as cancer.

Superficial Basal Cell Carcinoma

A less-common form of basal cell skin cancer that is a slow-spreading skin lesion. It has crusted surfaces, bordered with small thread-like structures. These lesions usually develop on the trunk, but can also grow on the neck and face.

Superficial Spreading Melanoma (SSM)

A type of melanoma skin cancer that is generally flat and irregular in shape and color, with different shades of brown and black. It usually occurs in light-skinned people of any age who have been over exposed to the sun during childhood, have a family history of melanoma and have abnormal moles.

Surface Microscopy

A procedure to look at spots on the skin more clearly. It is also known as dermatoscopy, dermoscopy or epiluminescence microscopy (ELM).

Surgical Procedure or Surgery

A medical procedure that involves an incision, or an opening that is cut into the skin, and the removal or replacement of a diseased organ or tissue.

Surgical Excision

A treatment that removes a skin growth or lesion with a surgical blade. A border, or margin, of skin around the lesion is also removed and then examined under a microscope to be sure all the cancer cells have been removed.

Systemic Chemotherapy

Treatment with anticancer drugs that travel through the blood to cells all over the body.

Topical Chemotherapy

Treatment with anticancer drugs in a lotion or cream applied to the skin.

Tumor

An abnormal mass of tissue that results from too much cell division. It may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous).

U-Z

Ulcer

A lesion on the surface of the skin that may be caused by trauma, blood disease, diabetes, exposure to heat or cold, infection or staying in one position for a long time.

Ultraviolet A (UVA) Light or Radiation

One of the two harmful types of sunlight. UVA rays go deeper into the skin and are the aging rays of sunlight. UVA penetrates window glass.

Ultraviolet B (UVB) Light or Radiation

One of the two harmful types of sunlight. UVB affects the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis. It is the light responsible for sunburns. UVB does not penetrate window glass.

Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR)

Invisible rays that are part of the sun’s energy. UV radiation also comes from sun lamps and tanning beds. UV radiation is made up of two types of rays, called UVA and UVB rays.

Visceral

Having to do with the viscera, or the soft internal organs of the body. These include the lungs, heart and organs of the digestive, excretory, reproductive and circulatory systems.

Xeroderma Pigmentosum

An inherited condition that causes sensitivity to all sources of ultraviolet radiation. It is a rare condition that reduces the skin’s ability to repair damage caused by sunlight.

X-ray

A type of high-energy radiation. In low doses, x-rays are used to diagnose diseases by making pictures of the inside of the body. In high doses, x-rays are used to treat cancer.