Skin Cancer

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Skin cancer accounts for more than half of all cases of cancer in the U.S., with more than 2 million people being diagnosed with basal and squamous cell skin cancer annually. An additional 75,000 develop melanomas—the most serious type—each year.

Most non-melanoma skin cancer outbreaks occur on sun-exposed areas such as the face, lips, back and hands. These basal or squamous cell cancers rarely spread and, with early detection, are typically treatable.

Like these types of skin cancer, melanoma is usually curable if detected early—however, it is the most dangerous type, accounting for 75% of all skin cancer-related deaths each year. Despite being the more dangerous of the skin cancers, melanoma has a 91% five-year survival rate.

While the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly self-examinations, patients are encouraged to get annual skin cancer detection screenings by a professional dermatologist. During both types of screenings, patients should check or be checked for new or changing legions, dark spots and irregularities. Skin cancer detection checks take less than 10 minutes and can greatly decrease the impact of the 2 million+ cases annually.

Signs of skin cancer include sudden changes to freckles, moles and other external growths—dark colored or colorless—as well as scaliness, bleeding or general change in appearance of other nodules. Markings with irregular borders to that appear to spread may also be signs of skin cancer.

May of each year is “National Skin Cancer Awareness Month.” The Dermatology Clinic participates in these annual skin cancer screenings at various locations throughout Arkansas.

What is Actinic Keratosis?

Actinic Keratoses are not skin cancers. Sun damaged skin becomes dry and wrinkled and may form rough, scaly spots, called actinic keratoses. Because they sometimes may turn cancerous, it is usually recommended to remove them. If a person has multiple actinic keratoses that change, bleed, or are enlarging, they should consider removal.

Actinic keratoses can be removed surgically with scissors, a curette (scraping instrument) or by way of freezing them with liquid nitrogen. Healing after removal usually takes 2 to 4 weeks, depending on the size and location of the keratosis. Results are generally very cosmetically pleasing.

You should avoid excessive sun exposure to avoid future AK’s.

What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?

Basal Cell Carcinoma’s are the result of sun damage to the skin. They are best treated early, when they are small, because it is simpler to remove a small growth than a large one. Surgical removal of basal cell cancers is almost 100 percent curative. Basal cell cancers enlarge steadily, but  do not spread to other parts of the body or spread internally.

Microscopic examination is necessary to determine whether a growth is cancerous. Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a highly specialized treatment for the total removal of skin cancer.  This method differs from all other methods of treating skin cancer by the use of Complete Microscopic Examination of all the tissues removed surgically as well as detailed mapping techniques to allow the surgeon to remove all of the roots and extensions of the skin cancer.

The procedure begins after the skin is injected with a local anesthetic to make it completely numb.  Then the visible cancer and a very thin layer of surrounding skin are removed with a scalpel, carefully mapped, and examined microscopically.  If there is still cancer seen under the microscope, another very thin layer of skin is removed from that exact location.  This may be repeated as often as necessary to completely remove the cancer.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)is the most common form of skin cancer, accounting for more than 90% of all skin cancer cases in the U.S. These cancers almost never spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. They can, however, cause damage by growing and invading surrounding tissue.

What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers (the epidermis). SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed. SCC is mainly caused by cumulative UV exposure over the course of a lifetime. It can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow.

SCCs may occur on all areas of the body including the mucous membranes and genitals, but are most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, bald scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs. Often the skin in these areas reveals telltale signs of sun damage, such as wrinkling, changes in pigmentation, and loss of elasticity.

Microscopic examination is necessary to determine whether a growth is cancerous. Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a highly specialized treatment for the total removal of skin cancer.  This method differs from all other methods of treating skin cancer by the use of Complete Microscopic Examination of all the tissues removed surgically as well as detailed mapping techniques to allow the surgeon to remove all of the roots and extensions of the skin cancer.

The procedure begins after the skin is injected with a local anesthetic to make it completely numb.  Then the visible cancer and a very thin layer of surrounding skin are removed with a scalpel, carefully mapped, and examined microscopically.  If there is still cancer seen under the microscope, another very thin layer of skin is removed from that exact location.  This may be repeated as often as necessary to completely remove the cancer.


What is Malignant Melanoma?

Melanoma, also called malignant melanoma, is a serious skin cancer. Melanoma develops from the pigment-producing cells of the skin, called melanocytes. Melanoma is dangerous because it can spread to a distant part of the body (metastasize). If melanoma is treated before it metastasizes, it is curable.  Early diagnosis and treatment is extremely advisable.

Malignant Melanoma is a cancer that develops in melanocytes, the pigment cells present in the skin. It can be more serious than the other forms of skin cancer because it may spread to other parts of the body (metastasize) and cause serious illness and death.

Because most melanomas occur on the skin where they can be seen, patients themselves are often the first to detect many melanomas. Early detection and diagnosis are crucial. Caught early, most melanomas can be cured with relatively minor surgery.

Melanoma is most common in those with a history of repeated severe sunburns in childhood.  Melanomas are almost always colored and resemble a mole. The only way to decipher between the two is to have the growth surgically removed and examined microscopically. Because this cannot be done for every colored spot on your body, there are guidelines for which growths must be seen by a physician. Their borders are usually notched or angular, and their color varies in different parts of the growth. Melanomas tend to be asymmetrical, have an irregular border, have variations in color, and have a diameter of more than 6 mm (1⁄4 inch).

Phamphlets and handouts are available at The Dermatology Clinic