What Everyone Should Know About Skin Cancer

April 5, 2012

One of the most common types of cancer in humans is skin cancer.  A million or more cases are reported every year, and the rates seem to be increasing.  Some studies project that nearly 50% of all Americans who live to be 65 years or older will have developed at least one case of skin cancer.

There are three primary types of skin cancer. The least dangerous type, Basal Cell Carcinoma, often appears as a small dome-shaped pearly bump.  It may look like a flesh-colored mole and can have superficial blood vessels on its surface. Basal Cell Carcinoma can also look like a patch of dry skin or a red, scaly patch that slowly increases in size over time. Squamous cell carcinoma usually looks like a red or skin-colored nodule and may be tender.  The most dangerous is melanoma, but it is not as common as squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma.  Melanoma develops in the pigment cells and may show up as a spot on the skin or a mole that changes.

Cancer screening is the process of determining at an early stage whether a person has cancer.  Regular skin exams are the most effective type of screening for these types of cancer.  Both you and your Dermatologist can check your skin, and if you find that something has changed, you can bring it to your Dermatologist’s attention.  If you have had cancer in the past, it is even more important to do regular screenings.

Your Dermatologist will be able to discuss with you the treatment options for your skin cancer. Treatment may depend on the type of skin cancer you have as well as its location. There are other factors such as size, clinical history, and pathologic features that help in determining the best treatment options for your skin cancer.