Skin cancers are an abnormal growth of skin cells, which are usually caused by a combination of genetic susceptibility and harmful rays from the sun. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with approximately one in five Americans developing a skin cancer during their lifetime. The type of skin cancer a person gets is determined by where the cancer begins. There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. If your doctor or provider suspects you have a skin cancer, he/she will they will perform a test called a biopsy. During a biopsy, a sample of the abnormal area will be removed. A pathologist will look at the skin cells under a microscope to check for cancer. The right treatment for you will depend on the type of skin cancer you have and its size and location.
If you have a concerning lesion, it is important to have it evaluated.
Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) are the most common form of cancer and are usually seen in people who have fair skin, but can occur in anyone. They usually appear as a red, shiny or pearly, bump on sun exposed areas that will not heal. Generally, BCCs grow slowly and are not life-threatening, but if untreated they can deep into the skin damaging the nerves, blood vessels, or bone. When found and treated early, this skin cancer is easily treatable. Treatment options include topical chemotherapy medications, electrodessication & curettage, excision, or Mohs micrographic surgery.
Squamous cell carcinomas can appear many different ways, including a non-healing sore; rough, red, scaly bump; or a rapidly growing dome-shaped growth. No matter the appearance, they usually appear on areas that have gotten a lot of sun exposure. Rarely, they can appear in areas not exposed to sunlight. When caught early and only in the skin, this cancer is usually not life-threatening. Treatment options include topical chemotherapy medications, electrodessication & curettage, excision, or Mohs micrographic surgery.
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer. While it is uncommon, it is more aggressive and more likely to invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, including the scalp, feet, nails, and mouth, but it is most commonly seen on the back of men and arms and legs of females. Risk factors for melanoma including exposure to UV radiation (tanning, sunburn), tanning bed use, having many small moles, light complexion, and family history. You should monitor for spots that grow or change in size, shape, or color; has irregular borders; is more than one color; or is asymmetrical. Treatment varies based depth and stage of the melanoma, but removal of the cancer with wide margins of normal skin is required.