Skin cancer occurs when previously healthy skin cells start to grow abnormally and cause cancerous growths. While almost all skin cancers start as small, low-risk lesions, they can grow and become high-risk if left untreated. That’s why early detection is one of the best ways to increase your chances of successful treatment and survival.
One advantage we have in the fight against skin cancer is that most growths develop on the visible outer layer of the skin (the epidermis), particularly in sun-exposed areas such as the face, head, hands, arms, and legs. Since this makes them relatively easy to spot, one of the most recommended ways to find cancer early is simply to keep an eye on your skin and report any unusual moles or changes in your skin to your Medical Provider.
Types of Skin Cancer
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Melanoma is considered the most dangerous type of skin cancer because it has a higher risk of invading surrounding tissues or spreading to other parts of the body (called metastasis) before being detected. This form of skin cancer can appear in a variety of forms, including unusual pigment changes, areas that look like bruises but are not healing, and irregular moles.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It often appears on sun-exposed skin as a pearly growth that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal and can grow in a variety of shapes, colors, and textures.Under normal circumstances, basal cells die off as part of the natural skin cycle. If their DNA undergoes a mutation, however, typically because of UV radiation from natural sunlight or tanning beds, they can multiply instead. As the basal cells build up, they form lesions that can become cancerous.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer. It can show up in a variety of ways, usually starting as a firm, skin-colored nodule and progressing to a raised, red growth. SCCs most often form as new growths from a previously healthy area of the skin, but they can also grow out of an existing scar or lesion. Cumulative, long-term exposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds are the major causes of this type of skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Because there are several different types of skin cancer, treatment plans are based on individual circumstances like tumor location, size, characteristics under the microscope, and the risk of cancer spreading to another location or growing again (recurring) in the same location.
Skin cancer treatment options may include procedures such as excision, curettage, and electrodessication, Mohs Surgery, surgical excision, laser surgery, cryosurgery, radiation therapy, and topical chemotherapy. The more likely a skin cancer is to spread or recur, the more aggressive the treatment will be.
Helping you through a skin cancer diagnosis and treatment journey is a top priority for us at Alaska Center for Dermatology, and our Providers will always work with you in partnership to select the best treatment method for your unique circumstances. Remember, when skin cancer is found and treated in its early stages, there is a successful cure rate of greater than 95%.
If you aren’t worried about a specific spot or growth but do have general concerns about your skin, an annual skin exam can go a long way toward catching any issues at the earliest stage.
Schedule an appointment with a caring, experienced Dermatologist at our location to have your skin examined or to discuss skin cancer treatment recommendations.