Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells on the body and typically presents itself in three different forms: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Oftentimes, those with skin cancer notice its presence when unusual growths or lesions surface on the skin, which are warning signs that are crucial for thorough and effective treatment. If you believe that you are showing symptoms of any form of skin cancer, it’s vital that you seek diagnosis and treatment at Laserderm Dermatology and Cosmetic Laser Surgery.
Forms of skin cancer and their symptoms
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma affects the basal cells in the skin, which are located on the deepest layer of the epidermis. BCCs are caused by direct sun exposure and are characterized by abnormal lesions that look like open sores. They are usually pink and shiny, but hardly spread to other parts of the body. Although BCCs are the mildest and most common form of skin cancer, they should be treated immediately, as they can cause disfigurement to the area in which they are located.
Known as the most severe form of skin cancer, melanoma occurs when damaged skin cells begin to mutate rapidly and create tumors. The mutations are a result of intense UV light exposure, whether from the sun or tanning beds, that directly affect the melanin-producing skin cells in the basal layer of the epidermis. The tumors that are created immediately become malignant and spread to other parts of the body in the form of a black or brown mole, but can look skin-colored, blue, purple or red as well.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma occurs on the upper layers of the epidermis, affecting the squamous cells in the skin. Like basal cell carcinomas, SCCs can appear to be open sores that have a scaly red consistency to them. The sore may also include a depression or wart near its center. Additionally, SCCs are known to grow and cause disfigurement if left untreated and appear in areas when sun exposure is high, such as the ear, face, neck, hands and more. However, the condition can also appear due to a lifetime of sun exposure.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The key to treating any form of skin cancer is early diagnosis, which ensures that the growths do no further damage to the skin and body. The best way to detect skin cancer is to have a dermatologist perform routine skin cancer screenings that evaluate the skin from head to toe. A dermatologist will know exactly what to look for in terms of skin cancer symptoms that you may have otherwise overlooked, particularly if you are prone to developing skin cancer. Risk factors include:
- Genetic predisposition
- A tendency to produce various moles on the skin
- Those who are caucasian or have fair skin
- A previous skin cancer diagnosis
- Immune system deficiencies
- Frequent sun exposure before the age of 18
A skin evaluation is an invaluable tool that considers your health and the longevity of your life, regardless of your complexion or skin color. Along with skin cancer screenings, the physicians at Laserderm Dermatology & Cosmetic Laser Surgery may also recommend preventative tactics that can protect your skin from UV rays. Guarding your skin against the sun with specific apparel or sun screen will lower your risk of skin cancer. Avoiding tanning beds or other methods of UV light exposure will also keep your skin healthy along with self-assessments of your skin.
If skin cancer is suspected, our physicians will perform a skin biopsy that removes a portion of the lesion to be examined and diagnosed. Once skin cancer is confirmed, we will move into your treatment options immediately. For basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and some forms of melanoma we utilize Mohs micrographic surgery to eliminate its presence from the skin. Mohs surgery is known to be the most effective when treating BCCs and SCCs, with a 98% success rate for patients. Its effectiveness is due to the physician’s ability to examine the cancerous growth simultaneously while excising it, layer by layer, from the skin. Examining the lesion allows doctors to know exactly how much the cancer has penetrated the skin and keeps physicians from removing too much healthy skin, which would cause further damage.
Each layer of skin that is removed is examined under a microscope. If no skin cancer is detected, then the surgery stops. If, however, physicians continue to locate forms of skin cancer, then the surgery and its examination process progress until it is no longer detectable in the skin. For patients with melanoma, surgical excision is still the most effective way to remove the malignant tumors from the body. However, techniques with Mohs surgery are improving and showing success rates for milder forms. If you are concerned about a particular mole or lesion on your body or simply wish to receive a preventative skin cancer screening, please contact Laserderm Dermatology & Cosmetic Laser Surgery today and schedule a consultation.