Skin Cancer

MEDICAL DERMATOLOGY

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is a condition in which the skin cells grow abnormally. While commonly found in areas of the skin that get a lot of sun, skin cancer can also happen in places that do not get a lot of sun. There are many types of skin cancer but the most common are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. As with all cancers, skin cancer should be taken seriously. While the five-year survival rate for some skin cancers is quite high, early detection is essential to the success of a case.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are several skin cancer types that a doctor might diagnose as a result of a skin biopsy.

The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, followed by squamous cell carcinoma, or SCC.

Both are common in those with fair skin, but can occur in patients with darker skin. Patients may also present with growths known as actinic keratoses, or AKs, which are not cancer but can grow into cancer.

The most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma since it is the most likely skin cancer to spread quickly and widely. The most effective interventions with all types of skin cancer are early diagnosis and treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer

There are a number of signs of skin cancer. These can vary based on the type of skin cancer involved.

Signs of basal cell carcinoma include:

  • A pearly bump on the skin
  • A flat, brown scar-like lesion
  • A scabbing sore that heals the recurs

Signs of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • A hard, red nodule
  • A flat crusted lesion

Melanoma signs include:

  • A large brownish spot with speckles
  • Moles that change size or color or that bleed
  • A small lesion with an irregular border
  • An itchy, painful lesion
  • Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining around the body

What Causes Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can be caused by exposure to UV radiation found in sunlight and tanning beds, as well as by exposure to toxins or having an immune condition. There are many risk factors associated with an increased chance of developing skin cancer, including:

  • Having a very light complexion
  • Getting multiple sunburns throughout your life
  • Excessive exposure to the sun
  • Living in sunny or high elevation climates
  • Having many irregular moles
  • A family history of skin cancer

How Skin Cancer is Treated

Diagnosing skin cancer can involve a biopsy. When a melanoma is quite thin, it can be removed during biopsy. In other cases, surgery may be required to remove skin cancer. Other interventions include curettage to slice off a lesion, cryotherapy to freeze and destroy a lesion, and Mohs surgery, which involves removing the cancerous lesions layer by layer. Supplemental therapies used to treat skin cancer include radiation therapy, chemotherapy or biological therapy that uses your immune system to fight the cancerous cells.

Suggested Treatment Options


All cases of skin cancer are not the same, therefore we recommend seeing a specialist to help determine which treatment option is the best for you.

Excision

Excision is a minimally-invasive surgery technique used to remove moles, skin growths and lesions. Learn More

Mohs

Mohs, or Mohs surgery, is a surgical technique used to treat skin cancer through the removal of skin lesions and growths. Learn More

Fluorouracil (5FU)

Fluorouracil works to slow this growth by killing off the fast-growing cells in the affected region of the skin. Learn More

Biopsy

A biopsy works by taking a small sample of tissue from a suspect area in the body so that it can be tested under lab conditions for certain diseases and disorders. Learn More

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