Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over a million new cases are diagnosed each year. In fact, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime. Anyone can get skin cancer, even people who have skin of color. This is why we recommend a routine skin exam by a dermatologist be performed at least once a year.
Symptoms of skin cancer or a pre-cancerous area can be itching, bleeding or pain. Skin exams and biopsies can quickly determine whether a patient has skin cancer or is at risk of developing skin cancer. Most skin cancers are almost always curable when detected and treated early.
Sun exposure and indoor tanning are the leading causes of skin cancer. People who are more likely to get skin cancer include:
- People who spend a lot of time in the sun
- Fair skinned people, especially with blonde or red hair and blue or green eyes
- People who have had bad sunburns, especially blistering sunburns, in childhood or early adulthood or have a history of multiple burns
- People who have skin that burns or freckles rather than tans
- Have 50 or more moles or have moles known as atypical nevi or dysplastic nevi
- Have a blood relative such as a parent, sibling or child who has had skin cancer.
Types of Skin Cancer
Also called malignant melanoma, this skin cancer originates from the pigment cells in the skin. It is easily treated when it is caught early but can be deadly if left untreated. If you have multiple moles or have a family history of melanoma, you should perform a monthly skin exam as well as visit your dermatologist regularly. Knowing what to look for is important. Remember the ABCDE’s of moles:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in humans. It is caused by sun exposure, fair skin and heredity. Basal cell carcinomas are rarely life threatening, but if left untreated can grow large and deep. Eventually, they can affect structures such as nerves, blood vessels or even bones. Most basal cell carcinomas can be removed by surgical excision or tissue destruction.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is a common skin cancer that arises from the squamous cells which form the top layer of the skin. It is commonly found in sun-exposed sites. Squamous cell carcinomas don’t normally spread to other areas; however, certain cases have a higher risk of doing so, such as large squamous cell cancers or those located on the lips and scalp.