Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Yet, when diagnosed early, it can easily be treated. At Pima Dermatology, we urge you to get annual skin cancer screenings because they are your best chance at discovering whether or not a seemingly innocuous skin lesion is potentially harmful.
What Is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the manifestation of DNA mutation in the skin cells. The rapid or uncontrolled spread of these unhealthy cells can easily turn malignant if not treated.
The causes of skin cancer vary from patient to patient, but there are common risk factors, including:
- Fair skin
- Family history
- Chronic sun exposure
- Frequent sunburns
- Skin lesions that are precancerous
- History of indoor tanning
There are three main types of skin cancer:
1. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Affecting more than 700,000 Americans each year, SCC forms generally due to chronic sun exposure sun and characterized mainly by:
- A reddish patch of crusty, itchy skin
- A crusty, wart-like growth that sometimes also bleeds or hurts
- An open sore that repeatedly oozes, bleeds, crusts, and heals
- An elevated skin growth that might hurt and often grows rapidly
2. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
The most common form of skin cancer, affecting over 1 million Americans yearly, BCC is also usually due to chronic sun exposure. In addition to having characteristics similar to SCC, BCC can also show:
- A pink, elevated growth with a crusty center and possibly tiny surface blood vessels as the growth enlarges. Often described as a “pimple that does not heal.”
- A shiny, translucent nodule or bump that is a variety of colors, often resembling a mole
- A waxy, scar-like, poorly-defined area characterized by taut, thin skin and often larger beneath the skin than it appears on the surface
Developing in the cells that produce skin color (melanocytes), this is the deadliest form of skin cancer. See a dermatologist immediately if you notice the following ABCDEs of melanoma:
- Asymmetry – one side of the lesion does not match the other
- Border – edges of the mole-like growth are irregular, ragged, or blurred
- Color – growth is inconsistent in color (black, pinkish, yellow, brown, red, etc.)
- Diameter – the rule of thumb is about the size of a pencil eraser (6mm); although a melanoma can be smaller, if it’s bigger, you may be at greater risk.
- Evolution – if the suspected spot changes in appearance, texture, size, color – or all of the above – then you could be at risk.
While all three types commonly form on areas that are chronically exposed to the sun – e.g., the face, ears, scalp, neck, back, shoulders – a melanoma can also form on the skin with infrequent sun exposure.
Benefits of Skin Cancer Treatment at Pima Dermatology
At Pima Dermatology, we strongly encourage annual skin cancer screenings, especially since living in sunny Tucson puts us all at a higher risk – and even if you show no outward symptoms.
There is no blood work involved; we simply give you a close visual inspection for skin irregularities or other signs of skin cancer. If an abnormal lesion is presented, then you may undergo further tests to determine whether or not you have skin cancer.
If you do have skin cancer, then the skin cancer specialists at Pima Dermatology have various treatment options available. Depending on which type of cancer, your age, general health, and the extent of the disease, your treatment could include:
- Curettage and Electrodesiccation
- Excisional Surgery
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery
- Immune System Stimulators (Aldara)
- Topical Chemotherapies (Efudex)
To Learn More About Skin Cancer, Contact Pima Dermatology
The skin cancer experts at Pima Dermatology know the emotional and physical impact this disease can have, and we are here for you. We are trained to diagnose and treat your skin cancer, regardless of the type. Schedule a consultation today for a skin cancer screening by calling our practice or contacting us online.
Next, read about surgical dermatology.