With more than four million new cases each year, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, in the U.S. Despite this fact, it is the most preventable and treatable cancer with very high cure rates when detected and treated early on. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, and between 40-50% of Americans who live to age 65 will have basal or squamous cell cancer at least once.
Skin cancer occurs when there is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. This happens when unrepaired damage to skin cells, caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure, triggers mutations that cause the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. This UV exposure can come from the natural sunlight and also from the use of tanning beds. People who work and play outdoors, use tanning beds, and have other medical conditions are even more prone to getting skin cancer, since 90% of all non-melanoma cancers are associated with ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Skin Cancer Types – The Big 3
There are three primary forms of skin cancer – Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Malignant Melanoma. While there are different subtypes of each, and other uncommon skin cancers, these are the “Big Three”. These cancers are named based on the skin layer and cell types from which they are formed.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) – Most common skin cancer, but rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Affects the deepest layer of skin tissue (basal layer). Can appear in varying forms, including red patches of skin, pink growths, open sores and shiny bumps. Primarily driven by sun exposure.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) – Second most common skin cancer and can spread to other parts of the body. Affects the covering and lining of the skin (epithelium). Can appear as a dome-shaped bump or a red, scaly patch of skin. It’s usually rough and crusty, and can bleed easily wen scraped. Primarily driven by sun exposure.
- Melanoma – Least common skin cancer among the three, but the most aggressive and most likely to spread. Affect the cells that tan the skin (melanocytes). The most common symptom is a change in an existing mole. Can form on any part of the body regardless of past sun exposure.
Treatment & What to Expect at Paladin
There are a wide variety of skin cancer treatments available, and there may be more than one option available for your situation. Treatment options depend on size, type and location. Small skin cancers appearing on the surface of the skin may need only minor surgery. Other deeper cancers may require more extensive treatment options.
- Biopsy – If an atypical lesion is found, it may be necessary to perform a simple skin biopsy to confirm the diagnosis and determine the severity of the problem. This is a quick, easy, and relatively painless procedure where a small piece of skin tissue is removed and submitted for microscopic examination.
- Excisional Surgery – Many cancers can be treated surgically, with an excision to remove the cancerous tumor. This is office-based surgery that is performed in the Paladin Surgery Suite under local anesthesia. It does not require hospitalization, visits to a surgery center, or long recovery periods. In fact, most of our surgery patients are able to resume normal activities the following day.
- Curettage – Small and superficial skin cancers can sometimes be treated without an excision, using a technique that currettes or “scrapes” away the cancerous cells. This leaves behind a small erosion that heals within 3-4 weeks.
- Mohs Surgery – The Mohs procedure involves surgically removing skin cancer layer by layer and examining the tissue under a microscope until health, cancer-free tissue around the tumor is reached (called clear margins).
- Radiation – In patients who are not able to tolerate surgery, or who have skin cancers in locations that are difficult to treat, outpatient radiation treatments can be an excellent option. These treatments are fast, painless, and deliver outstanding cosmetic results.
Why Paladin Dermatology
At Paladin Dermatology we use a team-based approach for identifying, treating, and preventing skin cancers. We utilize a talented team of plastic surgeons to remove skin cancers and perform repair and reconstruction procedures. This allows us to remove skin cancer with the smallest excisions possible, and the best cosmetic outcomes available. Great care has been taken to identify and recruit Providers who are the very best at what they do, and deliver care with kindness, compassion, and empathy.