May 8, 2023
During May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, organizations and individuals worldwide unite to spread the word about the risks of skin cancer and the importance of early detection and prevention. With more than 9,500 cases diagnosed daily, skin cancer is the most prevalent malignancy in the United States.
Skin cancer occurs when the cells in the skin grow uncontrollably and form a mass of abnormal cells, known as a tumor. Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, Merkel cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the four primary types of skin cancer. Numerous risk factors, such as genetics, sun exposure, and certain lifestyle choices, can contribute to skin cancer formation.
80% of all cases of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, making it the most common type of skin cancer. Typically, it appears on the face, neck, and arms, as these are the most prevalent parts of the body that are exposed to the sun.
A pink, glossy patch of skin that may bleed readily or a small, raised lump are the typical symptoms of basal cell carcinoma. On the surface, there might be tiny blood vessels that give it a glossy or waxy appearance. It may occasionally turn into an ulcer or a scab.
While basal cell carcinoma typically grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body, if left untreated, it can harm and disfigure the individual. Surgery, radiation therapy, and topical medicines are all used to treat basal cell carcinoma. The most effective course of action is determined by the tumor’s size, depth, and location, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences.
With about 16% of all cases, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most prevalent type of skin cancer. Additionally, it frequently appears on exposed skin, such as the face, neck, and arms. However, it can also appear on other parts of the body, such as the lips and genitals.
Squamous cell carcinoma typically presents as a red, flat patch of skin that itches or bleeds and may be covered in scales or scabbing. It could have a dip in the middle or have a hard, wart-like surface. It might occasionally turn into an ulcer or a sore that does not heal.
Squamous cell carcinoma can results in harm and disfigurement if left untreated, despite the fact that it typically grows slowly and seldom spreads to other regions of the body. Surgery, radiation therapy, and topical medicines are all used to treat squamous cell carcinoma. The most effective course of action is determined by the tumor’s size, depth, and location, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences.
Melanocytes, the skin’s pigment-producing cells, are where melanoma arises. Despite being less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, it is more aggressive, and, if left untreated, can spread to other body parts.
Melanoma typically presents as a dark or unusual-appearing mole or freckle that evolves over time in terms of size, form, or color. Additionally, it may have an uneven border, various coloring, and an asymmetrical shape. Melanoma can appear anywhere on the body, but the back, legs, arms, and face are the most common areas where it is discovered.
Melanoma can develop in places that are not typically exposed to the sun, such as the palms, soles of the feet, and under the nails. Exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays is the main cause of melanoma. Fair skin, a history of sunburns, melanoma in the family, and a large amount of mole are risk factors for melanoma.
The most uncommon, but very aggressive, skin cancer known as Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) arises in the Merkel cells, located in the skin’s deepest layer. People with weakened immune systems and older adults are more likely to develop MCC.
Typically, a cyst or a pimple will look similar to a painless firm, pink or red bump that is Merkel cell carcinoma. MCC could develop quickly, hemorrhage, or develop an ulcer. Merkel cell carcinoma frequently appears on skin that is frequently exposed to the sun such as the head, neck, and arms. However, it can also develop on other parts of the body.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a dangerous condition that can swiftly spread to the organs and lymph nodes, among other areas of the body. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery are available treatment options for MCC. The most effective course of action is determined by the tumor’s size, location, and stage as well as the patient’s preferences and general health.
Depending on the type of cancer, there can be a wide range of skin cancer signs and symptoms. However, some typical symptoms and signs to watch out for include:
To get a skin cancer diagnosis, you should see a dermatologist. You can schedule an appointment at SkinDC to get a skin exam here. During your visit, one of our board-certified dermatologists will conduct a thorough skin examination, looking for any suspicious growths or lesions.
One of our dermatologists may conduct a skin biopsy if they notice a questionable growth. This procedure entails taking a small sample of the tissue for laboratory testing. The results of the biopsy will aid in determining whether or not the tumor is malignant. At SkinDC, we use DermTech to collect samples of the tissue for analysis.
DermTech is a biotechnology company that specializes in non-invasive, genomic-based skin cancer diagnostic testing. DermTech’s Pigmented Lesion Assay (PLA) collects RNA from a suspicious skin lesion using a tiny adhesive patch. Following the collection, the RNA is examined to look for genetic changes linked to melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
The DermTech PLA is intended to be a minimally invasive replacement for conventional skin biopsies, which can be uncomfortable and cause scarring. The PLA is painless and can be completed in just a few minutes during your medical visit at SkinDC. The test has been shown to have a high level of accuracy in diagnosing melanoma and other types of skin cancer. It can also identify benign growths, eliminating the need for pointless biopsies.
With more accuracy and less invasiveness than conventional skin biopsies, DermTech’s genomic-based assays have the potential to transform the early detection and diagnosis of skin cancer.
The type and stage of cancer, the patient’s general health, and personal preferences all influence the choice of treatment for skin cancer. There are numerous therapeutic options available. Skin cancer treatments that are often used include:
Mohs surgery, also known as Mohs micrographic surgery, is a specialized surgical technique used to treat skin cancer. The procedure is named after Dr. Frederick Mohs, who developed the technique in the 1930s. Mohs surgery is a very accurate and efficient way to remove skin cancer, especially from sensitive areas like the face, eyelids, nose, lips, and ears where tissue preservation is crucial.
During Mohs surgery, the surgeon removed the visible portion of the cancerous growth and a thin layer of surrounding tissue. After that, the tissue is examined under a microscope to see if any malignant cells are still there. Until no cancer cells are found, the surgeon will remove another lay of tissues if cancerous cells are still present. The benefit of Mohs surgery is that it enables the exact removal of malignant tissue while maintaining the greatest amount of healthy tissue. This is important for both functional and cosmetic reasons.
Usually done under local anesthetic as an outpatient procedure. Mohs surgery might take several hours to complete, depending on the size and location of the malignant tumor. Depending on the size and location of the wound, it may be stitched closed, or left to heal naturally after the treatment.
Although Mohs surgery is very effective, it is not suitable for all forms of skin cancer. Your dermatologist or surgeon will determine if Mohs surgery is the best treatment option for your situation.
There are a number of widespread myths regarding skin cancer that can lead to a lack of understanding and awareness of this disease. Some of the most typical misconceptions include:
Prevention and early detection are key in the fight against skin cancer. Here are some tips for preventing skin cancer and detecting it early: