Everything You Need to Know About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is one the most common of all cancer types, which occurs when malignant cells are found in the outer layers of your skin. More than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States. Although the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise, most cases could be prevented by limiting the skin's exposure to ultraviolet radiation.
Skin cancers are diagnosed via a biopsy and fall into two major categories: non-melanoma and melanoma.
- Basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal and most commonly appears after the age of 40 in the form of lesions on the head or neck area, which may increase in size or bleed easily. Learn More
- Squamous cell carcinoma generally develops in people over 50 with sun-damaged skin. This is the most common form of non-melanoma cancer. These growths appear as flat and red, becoming raised, scaly patches. Learn More
Treatments for non-melanoma cancers include:
- Cryosurgery — Some skin carcinomas respond to cryosurgery, where liquid nitrogen is used to freeze off the tumor.
- Electrodessication and Curettage — A preferred method of dermatologists, this treatment involves using a small metal instrument (called a curette) to scrape out the tumor along with an application of an electric current into the tissue to kill off any remaining cancer cells.
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery — Surgical removal of basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Mohs Micrographic Surgery excises not only the visible tumor but also any “roots” that may have extended beneath the skin surface minimizing both post-operative wound size scar and the chance of recurrence.
- Prescription Medicated Creams — Topical chemotherapy cream used to treat non-melanoma skin cancers applied at home. Usually applied once a day for several weeks, they stimulate the body's natural immune system to attack cancer cells.
- Superficial Radiotherapy (SRT) — Low dose superficial radiotherapy safely destroys non-melanoma skin cancer cells without damaging healthy surrounding tissue. There is no cutting or stitching, less risk for infection, and no need for reconstructive plastic surgery to repair surgical scars.
- Surgical Excision — Surgical removal of the tumor; incisional closure with stitches.
While melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, it is by far the most virulent. It is the most common form of cancer among young adults age 25 to 29. Melanocytes are cells found in the bottom layer of the epidermis. These cells produce melanin, the substance responsible for skin pigmentation. That's why melanomas often present as dark brown or black spots on the skin. Melanomas spread rapidly to internal organs and the lymph system, making them quite dangerous. Early detection is critical for curing this skin cancer.Melanomas look like moles and often do grow inside existing moles. That's why it is important for people to conduct regular self-examinations of their skin in order to detect any potential skin cancer early, when it is treatable. Most melanomas are caused by overexposure to the sun beginning in childhood. This cancer also runs in families. Treatment options include surgical removal, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
For your personal use, we have an extensive Patient Education library covering an array of skin conditions and topics of interest: Patient Education
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