With any skin cancer, early detection and diagnosis are key to achieving the best possible clinical outcome.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer seen world-wide, caused by lifelong sun-exposure and hereditary disposition. BCC usually appears on sun-exposed areas as a blemish that won’t heal, or as a persistent, pearly, shiny bump. Although these tumors are rarely life-threatening, if left untreated, they can continue to grow larger and deeper, eventually invading into and destroying surrounding tissue. When this type of cancer is found on the head and neck, Mohs surgery is usually the best treatment, providing the highest chance of cure while leaving as small of a scar as possible.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It also commonly arises on sun-exposed skin, such as the face, scalp, neck, back, shoulders, and arms. SCC often appears as a hard, scaly bump or scaling patch and may be mistaken for a wart or patch of dry skin. SCC can occasionally spread to lymph nodes and internal organs; high-risk features include large or recurrent cancers, as well as rapidly-growing tumors of the ears, scalp, or lips. An increased risk of spread is also seen in immunosuppressed patients, such as organ transplant patients, or those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Treatment is similar to the treatment of BCC.
Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers, but it has an excellent prognosis if caught early. Melanoma originates from the pigment cells in the skin, and although it may occur anywhere, is most often found on the legs of women and backs of men. Melanoma most often occurs in moles. It usually presents as a brown to black lesion that is not uniform in shape, border, color, or surface. Melanoma on chronically sun-damaged skin (called lentigo maligna melanoma) may appear like an irregularly brown colored patch. If you have many moles, a history of dysplastic nevi, or a family history of melanoma, it is important to see your dermatologist for regular skin checks and perform monthly self-skin examinations at home
Other more rare skin tumors of the skin include atypical fibroxanthoma (AFX), microcystic adnexal carcinoma (MAC), sebaceous carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and dermatofibromasarcoma protuberans (DFSP). Although many of these tumors are best treated with Mohs surgery, others may be treated with standard excision or referral to another specialist.
Steps you can take to protect yourself from skin cancer:
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