Types of Skin Cancer – Dr. Gary Goldenberg

As the largest organ, the skin plays in important role in protecting your body, controlling your internal temperature, and balance of water, vitamins, or minerals. It is essential to take proper care of your skin because exposure to sun and UV can potentially lead to skin cancer. Skin cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the tissues of the skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately five million Americans are treated for skin cancer every year and about one in five Americans will fight skin cancer. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Starting in the basal cells of the epidermis, basal cell carcinoma usually appears as small bumps or nodules on the skin. Overtime, BCC can spread to surrounding tissues and even affect nerves and bones, causing severe damage and disfigurement. Since the major cause of BCC is chronic sun exposure, it commonly appears on areas frequently exposed to the sun such as the face, neck, arms, and shoulders but can also develop in others parts of the body. Although it can occur in all races, those with fair skin have a higher risk of developing this type of skin cancer. People who spend long hours in the sun or tan often are also more susceptible to BCC.  If diagnosed early, basal cell carcinoma can be easily treated.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. Occurring in the outer layer of the skin, squamous cell carcinoma is a tumor that often appears as a red firm bumps, scaly patches, or sores. SCC can occur anywhere on the body but usually form on areas that are frequently exposed to the sun such as the face, lips, scalp, ears, etc. SCC is more likely to develop in middle aged- and elderly people, especially those with fair skin complexions. Squamous cell carcinoma can grow deep in the skin and spread to other parts of the body, causing damage and disfigurement. With an early diagnosis, squamous cell carcinoma may be treated.

Melanoma is most deadly form of skin cancer. Affecting over 44,000 people in the United States each year and causes the most deaths, melanoma usually develops as a dark mole or spot on the skin. Melanoma can develop from a mole or arise as a melanoma from the start. Excessive sun exposure and UV radiation are the main causes of melanoma; however, genetics is also a key factor in developing melanoma. Those who have family members who suffer from melanoma are more susceptible to this type of skin cancer. Melanoma spreads very quickly and can become fatal; therefore, regular check-ups and early diagnosis is crucial in order to properly treat this type of skin cancer.

Depending on the stage of cancer, there are many different treatment options. Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. If the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body, surgery is usually successful in removing the cancerous mass. Another treatment option is chemotherapy, which utilizes anti-cancer drugs to destroy or control the growth of cancer cells. Radiation is also a treatment option for those who suffer from cancer. Radiation therapy uses ionizing radiation to kill or control malignant cells. Other treatment options for skin cancer include photodynamic therapy, laser surgery, or topical medications. Visit Dr. Goldenberg at Goldenberg Dermatology to if you think you may have skin cancer and for tips to prevent skin cancer.

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