Medical Dermatology

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer occurs in three main forms: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma. Of the more than one million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S. each year, approximately 80% will be basal cell carcinoma (BCC), 16% will be squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and 4% will be melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma is a skin cancer that develops in the basal layer of the skin—deeper than the surface layer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of cancer worldwide. It is associated with chronic sun exposure. Basal cell carcinoma seldom spreads to other parts of the body, but can be disfiguring if not treated early. Basal cell cancer should be treated promptly by your dermatologist because they can grow locally and destroy surrounding tissues. Basal Cell cancers are curable, and are treated with surgical procedures (excision, electrodessication and curettage, Mohs Micrographic Surgery), Photodynamic therapy or Imiquimod cream, depending on the type of cancer, its location and its size.

Squamous cell carcinoma: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common cancer of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma arises in the outer layer of the skin (the epithelium). Middle-aged and elderly persons, especially those with fair complexions and frequent sun exposure, are most likely to develop SCC.. Squamous cell carcinomas often arise from small sandpaper-like growths called solar or actinic keratoses. It is rare for SCC to spread to local lymph nodes and internal organs, but metastasis can happen when high-risk SCC is not promptly diagnosed and treated. Squamous Cell cancers are curable, and are treated with surgical procedures (excision, electrodessication and curettage, Mohs Micrographic Surgery), Photodynamic therapy or Imiquimod cream, depending on the type of cancer, its location and its size.

Melanoma is also curable when detected early, but it can be fatal if it is not detected at an early stage. Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment-producing cells in the skin, known as melanocytes. Melanoma occurs when melanocytes transform into cancer cells that multiply and invade other tissues.

  • The overall incidence of melanoma is rising at an alarming rate.
  • In 2005, one in 62 Americans have a lifetime risk of developing invasive melanoma, a 2000% increase from 1930. When non-invasive melanoma is included, one in 34 Americans have a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology urges everyone to examine their skin regularly. If there are any changes in the size, color, shape or texture of a mole, the development of a new mole, or any other unusual changes in the skin, see your dermatologist immediately.
  • Excessive exposure to ultraviolet sunlight is the most preventable cause of melanoma. Melanoma has also been linked to excessive sun exposure in the first 10 to 18 years of life.
  • Not all melanomas are sun related – other possible causes include genetic factors and immune system deficiencies. Melanoma can strike anyone. Caucasians are ten times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than other races.