According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. There are different types of skin cancer. The two most common – basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas – if caught in time, are curable. The third most common type, melanoma, is more dangerous and more deadly.
Skin cancer is generally caused by unprotected exposure of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light, an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds, and sunlamps. Like other cancers, skin cancer can metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) and cause problems with other organs.
Many people who have skin cancer notice a change in their skin, such as a sore that won’t heal, a growth, or a change in a mole. While not all skin cancers look the same, it’s generally a good idea to keep an eye out for these sorts of changes, and specific to moles, remember the “A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma”:
“A” stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
“B” stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
“C” is for color. Is the color uneven?
“D” is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
“E” is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?
While people with light skin do carry an increased risk, skin cancer can affect anyone – no matter their skin color, gender or age.
Other risk factors for developing skin cancer include:
Blue, green, or hazel eyes
Tendency to burn rather than tan
History of severe sunburns
Have many moles (especially 50 or more)
Personal or family history of skin cancer
Living in a sunny state, Californians are at a higher risk than the national average for developing skin cancer.
Annual skin examinations help ensure early detection, as identifying problem areas before they become cancerous is ideal. If a growth, mole, sore, or skin discoloration appears suddenly, or begins to change, don’t wait for your annual screening, call our office immediately.
Numerous medical and surgical procedures are available to treat cancer identified through a skin biopsy. Dermatologic surgical treatments such as Mohs Surgery can be done on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic. In some cases, radiation and photodynamic therapies and topical chemotherapy products can also be very effective.