Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over a million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Anyone can get skin cancer. Your risk of developing skin cancer is increased if your parent, child or sibling has had any form of skin cancer – particularly melanoma. Redheads and blondes have a two-fold to four-fold greater risk of developing melanoma. However, darker-skinned patients are still at risk.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Potter treats skin cancers using scraping and burning, freezing, radiation, and excisional surgery.
Warning signs of skin cancer
Most moles develop sometime after birth, but some people are born with moles. Very large moles that have been present since birth do have an increased risk of transforming into melanoma over time. The development of a new mole or any changes in the size, color, shape or texture of a mole may be a sign of skin cancer, and should be checked right away. Melanomas can develop anywhere on the body, even in places that are not exposed to the sun, such as the soles of your feet or even your nails.
There is no need to panic. Non-melanoma skin cancer is not necessarily life-threatening, nor does its therapy have to be disfiguring; however, if left untreated, the disease can continue to progress.
Even though there is a strong correlation between ultraviolet radiation from the sun and all types of skin cancer, you can still get skin cancer even if you stay out of the sun. Always be sure to check your skin for any new or changing lesions every month.
Three main types of skin cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and represents about 80 percent of new skin cancers. This type is rarely life-threatening and does not usually spread. A predisposition to basal cell carcinoma can be inherited, but these lesions usually occur in patients who have had repeated sun exposure. Patients that develop a basal cell cancer have a 60 percent chance of developing another one within five years, so it is essential that all patients who have had a skin cancer continue to see our physician regularly. Basal Cell Carcinoma may appear as a red, flesh-colored or pearly bump, or may have the appearance of an ulcer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is another common type of skin cancer that is rarely life-threatening when caught early. It represents about 16 percent of new skin cancers and is found most often in people with fair complexions. This type may develop from an actinic keratosis which is a pre-cancer that tends to be a red and scaly lesion on sun-damaged skin. Actinic keratosis can often range in size from a pencil eraser to the size of a coin and form on all sun-exposed areas of the body. Squamous Cell Carcinoma can also appear as a red bump, or may have the appearance of an ulcer.
Malignant Melanoma represents about four percent of newly diagnosed skin cancers. It is the most serious form of skin cancer and can be deadly. However, if treated early while it is still thin, the cure rate is about 95 percent. If it is allowed to grow it can be fatal. This cancer usually stems from a mole that has been present for many years. If you have a mole that increases in size or changes in color, you should have it examined by a doctor immediately. Malignant Melanoma may also appear as a dark, irregular pigmented patch.
Skin cancer treatments available
There are many options available to treat skin cancers, including scraping and burning, freezing, radiation, and excisional surgery. A highly specialized type of surgery performed by doctors is called Mohs micrographic surgery.
Mohs micrographic surgery combines the surgical removal of the tumor with the immediate microscopic examination of the tumor. It is the treatment of choice for recurrent cancers, large cancers, cancers where the edges cannot be clearly defined, or in areas where it is important to preserve healthy tissue for the maximum functional and cosmetic results.
Before Dr. Potter performs your skin cancer treatment, it is necessary to consider all the benefits and drawbacks of each procedure. Your risks of skin cancer can be reduced when you protect yourself from the sun, are aware of suspicious growths and visit our practice for regular check-ups.