Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is a term that describes an abnormal growth of skin cells. This skin condition can affect anyone and is most susceptible to individuals with extended and prolonged sun exposure. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. You can decrease the risk of developing cancer of the skin by reducing their ultraviolet radiation exposure and avoiding the sun. Those who notice changes in their skin should seek treatment immediately. Early detection is critical when it comes to the proper and timely treatment of skin cancer.

Learn More About Treatments, Lesions & Types of Skin Cancer

Where Does Skin Cancer Grow?

Cancer can form anywhere on the skin. It typically develops on areas that receive the most sun exposure, but it can also form underneath fingernails and on other hidden or concealed parts of the body. Some of the most common places for cancer to occur are the scalp, face, neck and arms. Even those who have a dark skin complexion can develop one of the forms of skin cancer known as melanoma.

When to Seek Medical Treatment

Patients should monitor their skin routinely and contact their doctor anytime they notice an abnormal change in their skin. Not all skin conditions are the result of cancer, but it is best to let a doctor evaluate the new or unusual growth.  Moles, lesions, changes in color or patches can all signal an unusual growth. Those who seek medical treatment promptly are more likely to catch cancer or precancerous lesions in its early stages.

What Causes Skin Cancer to Spread?

Skin cancer occurs when a DNA mutation causes skin cells to grow abnormally. The cancer starts in the epidermis, which is the top layer of skin. There are three type of cells in the epidermis: squamous cells, basal cells and melanocytes. When ultraviolet radiation damages these skin cells, a mass of cancer cells can form and potentially spread.

What are the Risk Factors?

Those who have fair skin are more likely to get melanoma than those with a darker complexion. This is because fair-skinned individuals have less melanin in their skin, which is what helps protect the body from UV radiation. Those who spend too much time in the sun or use tanning beds have an increased risk of developing cancer. Some other common risk factors include radiation exposure, a family history of cancer, a weakened immune system and having precancerous skin lesions.

How the Cancer is Diagnosed

After examining a patient's skin, the doctor may take a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis. A biopsy can help determine the type of cancer and the extent of the disease.  If a patient has melanoma or a large squamous cell carcinoma, the doctor may need to conduct additional tests. Doctors must know the stage of the disease before they can determine which treatment for skin cancer to take.

Types of Treatments for Skin Cancer

Treatments include the following:

  • Mohs Micrographic surgery
  • Excision
  • Electrodessication and Curettage
  • Photodynamic Therapy
  • Topical Chemotherapy
  • Cryotherapy

Your dermatologist and surgeon will analyze factors such as the type of skin cancer, the stage, and the location of the cancer on the body, when determining the most appropriate and effective method of treatment. Depending on the extent of the cancer, your doctor will know what is most suitable and efficient in eliminating the cancer and preventing it from spreading. For example, Mohs surgery is highly effective in eliminating cancerous tissue layer by layer and is most commonly used when the cancer is apparent on the face.  It also permits the preservation of the most amount of healthy tissue which is critical for a delicate structure and feature of the body, like the face.