Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the world. In the U.S. alone, more than two million cases will be diagnosed this year.
There are three main types of skin cancer, with the most common form being basal cell carcinoma. This form of skin cancer most often first appears as a pink, translucent bump on sun-exposed areas of the skin such as the face, shoulders, upper back, arms and legs. The cancerous area may also begin to bleed and scab easily.
Basal cell skin cancer does not spread internally, but can spread locally. Treatment for basal cell carcinoma usually involves surgery to remove the cancerous area or, if caught in the early stage, a cream known as Imiquimod can be used to treat the cancer.
The second most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. Squamous cell skin cancer usually appears as pink or red scaly patches that won’t go away on sun-exposed areas of the skin as well.
Also, if an individual notices thinner pink or red scaly patches, those may indicate pre-squamous cell cancers called actinic keratosis which can develop into squamous cell carcinoma.
Actinic keratosis can be treated by freezing the area, using a chemotherapy cream or administering a procedure called photodynamic therapy (PDT). Treatment for squamous cell skin cancer, like basal cell, most often involves surgery and/or the cream, Imiquimod (for early stages).
A procedure called Mohs surgery is often used to remove basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, which conserves as much healthy tissue as possible while having a high degree of certainty that all of the cancer is removed.
The least common form, yet most serious form of skin cancer is melanoma. The incidence of melanoma cases has drastically increased over the last thirty years; and the disease can be potentially life-threatening as it can spread to the lymph nodes and other inner organs of the body.
To detect melanoma, use the ABCDE guidelines:
A – Asymmetry
B – Border Irregularity
C – Color variation and/or change
D – Diameter more than 6 mm (pencil eraser size) and/or change in diameter
E – Evolving – changing lesions
The earlier melanoma and other skin cancers are detected, the easier they are to treat.
Therefore it is extremely important to seek the advice of a medical professional if you detect an abnormal area on your skin. Cone Health has a network of dermatologists, cancer care specialists and other-related healthcare providers dedicated to educating the community about skin cancer and providing exceptional treatment.
Dr. Laura Lomax is a dermatologist at Greensboro Dermatology Associates and a member of the Cone Health Medical Staff. Dr. Lomax is a 1985 graduate of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill School of Medicine and she completed her residency in Dermatology at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Hospitals.