Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up
Skin Cancer Basics
avatar
Susan Evans, MD posted:
Skin cancer continues to be the number one preventable cancer in the entire world. And yet, we're still not paying attention to the dangers! Over 73 million people in the United States alone suffer from a damaging sunburn every year. Just one such sunburn can more than quadruple your chances of developing skin cancer at a later date.

There are three basic types of skin cancer:

Basal Cell Cancer — BCC is the most common form of skin cancer that is detected. It usually presents as a pearly raised bump with a hard edge. It doesn't ever heal or go away. While it is a skin cancer, it is not considered to be metastatic. If you have had a single diagnosis of a BCC, you are at a greater risk of developing more of them in the future.

Squamous Cell Cancer — SCC is less common than basal cell carcinoma, roughly by two-thirds. Men are four times more likely to present with a SCC than women are. This type of cancer is directly related to sun exposure. Most people who experience sun damage develop a precancerous lesion called an actinic keratosis. This is a rough, red, scaly patch that appears on sun-exposed areas of your skin. It may seem to go away, but it will always reappear.. This is your warning sign! Do NOT ignore it! With treatment, SCC is completely curable. Without treatment, it is often fatal.

Melanoma — These are the most dangerous skin cancers of all, occurring only about one tenth as often as BCC. This type of skin cancer is deadly. This erupts from the melanin producing cells of your skin and presents as a dark, uneven colored freckle or mole with ragged edges. Usually this type of cancer is asymmetrical, meaning that one half of the dark spot does not match the other half. There will be some mottling of color, and one side can be larger than the other. Melanoma is deadly, even if it is smaller than an eraser, not raised, not painful. If you suspect that you have a suspicious lesion, get to a dermatologist today! The longer you wait, the more chance this lesion can metastasize, meaning a single cell breaks apart and travels to another area of your body. When this happens, you will die of this disease. Once you have been diagnosed with a melanoma, you are considered a cancer patient.

Treatment for Skin Cancer

BCC and actinic keratoses can often be treated in the office of your dermatologist either by freezing off the precancerous or cancerous lesion. You may be given the choice of cryotherapy (freezing) or a topical chemotherapy with Efudex. Efudex is applied twice a day directly on the lesion until it becomes inflamed and develops a scab. At this point, you stop applying the Efudex and apply a soothing cream prescribed by your dermatologist until the scab falls off and all the redness goes away.

For bigger lesions that will not respond to either cryotherapy or topical chemotherapy, you may undergo in-office simple surgical excision.
Melanomas are almost always treated with Mohs surgery. This is a microscopically controlled surgery that is used to ensure that you have completely free margins all around the cancer. Small sections of your skin are taken examined under a microscope. If there are still any cancer cells present, another section will be taken until there are no cancer cells seen. In this way your dermatologist can tell you that all the cancer has been removed.

Any cancers that have progressed will require the attention of an oncologist, or a cancer doctor. Whatever you do, do not delay if you suspect you have a cancerous or precancerous spot on your skin. The sooner it is examined, the better the outcome.
Was this Helpful?
13 of 23 found this helpful
Reply


Featuring Experts

Mohiba K Tareen, MD is a board certified dermatologist who has an innovative practice in Roseville, Minnesota. Tareen Dermatology ( www.TareenDermato...More

Helpful Tips

noseeums - no-see-ums
I have suffered with the noseeums. DEET works and there is some information about prevention at www.http://noseeums.org/ More
Was this Helpful?
1 of 2 found this helpful

Related News

There was an error with this newsfeed

Related Drug Reviews

  • Drug Name User Reviews

Report Problems With Your Medications to the FDA

FDAYou are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.