Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in the United States with numbers growing rapidly year by year. An estimated one out of every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime which makes awareness and steps towards prevention necessities in all healthcare regimens.
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. All three are characterized differently but have the potential to cause serious, and in some cases life-threatening, harm if left untreated.
What is Basal Cell Carcinoma?
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer, with more than two million cases diagnosed in the United States every year. Most often found on sun exposed areas of the body – head, neck, face or back of hands – it is possible for BCC to appear on any area of the body. This form of skin cancer is known to grow and spread slowly and if left untreated it can develop deep roots below the surface of the skin.
BCC presents itself as a pearly papule or red, ulcerated patch. Those with increased sun exposure or a history of indoor tanning are susceptible to BCC. The best method of prevention is sun avoidance and the regular use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF 30.
What is Squamous Cell Carcinoma?
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer, as an estimated 700,000 new cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Usually resembling a crusted, red lesion, SCC may also present as a fast growing dome shaped nodule. This form of skin cancer often begins as Actinic Keratosis. SCC has a higher likelihood of spread into the body, especially when occurring on the head, specifically the lips, and neck. As with BCC, early detection is key in preventing the spread of SCC as well as sun avoidance and the use of a broad-spectrum, SPF 30 sunscreen.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, claiming approximately one life every 60 minutes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. It has grown at alarming rates in the past decade with Caucasian men over the age of 50 are at the highest risk for developing melanoma and holding the title of the most common form of cancer in young adults ages 25-29. A very non-discriminating form of cancer, Melanoma can develop on individuals of any skin color or ethnicity.
Melanoma is known to progress very rapidly which is why early detection is vital. While regular skin exams are key in detecting possible suspicious lesions, knowing the warning signs, or the ABCDEs of Melanoma, helps you identify any abnormal lesions.
If you suspect a mole may be Melanoma, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.
Can I prevent Skin Cancer?
Avid sun exposure is the main cause of skin cancer, however the various forms of skin cancer have been known to develop in areas of little to no sun exposure. The daily and regular reapplication of a broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen, avoidance of sun exposure during peak hours (10 am – 4 pm), and regular skin exams all work in conjunction to prevent skin cancer as best as possible. In between regular dermatology visits, we recommend conducting a monthly self exam to make note of any changes or new moles you see. The below image from the American Academy of Dermatology depicts how to perform a self exam:
You can also download a Mole Map from the AAD here. This information is great in working with your provider to track any changes you notice in your skin.
How can a dermatologist help with skin cancer?
Board-certified dermatologists and dermatology physician assistants are the top line of defense in detecting, removing and preventing skin cancer. When caught early, skin cancer has a high rate of curability which is why annual full body skin exams with a board-certified dermatologist or dermatology physician assistant are vital in identifying current and possible skin cancers.
If you are concerned about a suspicious lesion or are due for a full body skin exam, simply contact our office to schedule an appointment. You deserve the healthiest skin possible and it is our goal at Dermatology and Laser Center of Charleston to make that happen.