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Preventing & Treating Skin Cancer


Skin cancer refers to a group of diseases that involve the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It’s the most common type of cancer. The fastest-spreading, and most dangerous, type of skin cancer is melanoma.

Types of skin cancer include: 

  • Basal cell — most common but grows slowly and less dangerous than other types
  • Melanoma — not the most common but can spread quickly without treatment
  • Squamous cell — more common than melanoma but not as dangerous
  • Merkel cell carcinoma — least common but very dangerous

If you’d like to talk with an expert about symptoms of skin cancer in the Bay Area, Find a Doctor today at Dignity Health. Your doctor can provide a physical exam and refer you to a specialist, if necessary.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of skin cancer can vary with each type, but generally include an obvious lump or growth on the skin. Talk with your doctor as soon as possible if you notice any unusual skin changes or changes in an existing mole.

Skin Cancer Causes

The main causes of skin cancer are exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and tanning beds. Your risk factors for skin cancer increase if you:

  • Are older
  • Have a family history of skin cancer
  • Have a weakened immune system, such as from an HIV infection or taking medicine to prevent organ transplant rejection

Skin cancer prevention starts with wearing broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays.

Skin Cancer Treatment at Dignity Health

Your treatment for skin cancer depends on the type and location of the disease, as well as your personal preferences. Dignity Health doctors may recommend: 

  • Treatment or removal of precancerous skin lesions
  • Surgical procedures to physically remove skin cancer
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy to destroy cancer cells that are growing quickly
  • Targeted therapy to destroy only cancer cells or stop their growth
  • Immunotherapy to strengthen your body’s immune system to fight cancer
  • Thermotherapy to use heat energy to destroy cancer cells 

At St. Mary’s Melanoma Center, our cancer center doctors collaborate with the Northern California Melanoma Center to offer specialized care. You can find trusted cancer services at:

Dignity Health Bay Area hospitals offer prevention strategies, testing, diagnostic imaging, and treatment for skin cancer in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.