Most Common Skin Cancers

Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of all cancers in the United States and the number of cases continues to increase. Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds is the main cause of skin cancer. There are two main types of UV rays that damage our skin and both types can cause skin cancer. UVB is responsible for the majority of sunburns, while UVA penetrates deep into the skin causing aging.

Sunburn is a clear sign that the DNA in skin cells has been damaged by too much UV radiation. Sunburn doesn’t have to be raw, peeling or blistering. If the skin has become pink or red from the sun, it is sunburnt. For people with darker skin, the skin may just feel irritated, tender or itchy.

There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Cumulative sun exposure causes mainly basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, while episodes of severe sunburns, usually before age 18, can significantly raise the risk of developing malignant melanoma.

Basal Cell & Squamous Cell Skin Cancers

Basal cell and squamous cell cancers make up 95% of all skin cancers. Also referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers, they are highly curable when treated early.

Both basal and squamous cell skin cancers may occur anywhere on the body but most commonly appear on sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, arms and legs.

A basal cell skin cancer can often present as a small, smooth, pearly bump or as a flat pink or red lesion. A squamous cell skin cancer can appear as a firm, red nodule or as a rough, scaly flat lesion that may bleed and/or become crusty.

Basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are treated very similarly and the treatments can be performed at the dermatology office. The standard treatment options include:

a) Primary Excision – surgical removal of the skin cancer under local anesthesia with a margin of normal tissue

b) Mohs surgery (for skin cancers in high-risk areas) – this is the excision of cancer with immediate microscopic examination to ensure clear margins and complete removal of the cancer

c) Curettage & Fulguration – physically scraping and burning away the skin cancer cells

d) Cryosurgery or freezing

e) Topical chemotherapeutic creams

Malignant Melanoma

This is the most dangerous skin cancer. Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of skin cancers but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths. If left untreated; melanoma can spread to other organs and may be very difficult to treat.

Most cases of malignant melanoma can be prevented by limiting sun exposure, enjoying the sun safely and avoiding tanning beds. Getting sunburn, even only once every two years, can triple the risk of melanoma skin cancer.

Melanoma can present in many different ways; often appears as a pigmented patch or bump but can also be red or white. It may resemble a normal mole but often has a more irregular appearance.

When evaluating a lesion for melanoma, the ABCDEs of Malignant Melanoma can often be extremely useful and include:

  • Asymmetry – the shape of one half doesn’t match the other
  • Border – edges are ragged or blurred
  • Color – uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
  • Diameter – A significant change in size (greater than 6mm), although any mole that is getting larger should be brought to the attention of your dermatologist; many melanomas are being diagnosed at much smaller diameters.
  • Evolving – any new growth or mole that is changing in any way including color, shape or size

Standard treatments for malignant melanoma skin cancer include:

a) Wide surgical excision

b) Sentinel lymph node mapping (for deeper lesions) to determine if the melanoma has spread to local lymph nodes

c) Drugs (chemotherapy, biological response modifiers) for widespread metastatic disease

d) Radiation therapy for local control of advanced melanoma in areas such as the brain

e) New therapies under investigation in clinical trials.

Dermatology Skin Evaluation!

It is very important to have a TBSE or Total Body Skin Exam once a year if you have never been diagnosed with skin cancer. If you have a history of skin cancer the frequency of visits with your dermatology provider should increase to at least biannually.
If it has been over a year since your last skin exam or if you have questions or concerns regarding any skin lesion, please contact Mahoney Dermatology and meet with one of our providers today! We are conveniently located in St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park.