What Is Skin Cancer?
Cancer is when cells in your body grow rapidly and out of control and can be benign or malignant. Skin cancer, then, is when your skin cells at any level of your epidermis grow rapidly and out of control. The most common form of cancer in the United States is skin cancer with more than 500,000 new cases reported each year and reported cases are rising faster than any other form of cancer. 80% of the reported cases of skin cancer appear on the face, head, or neck but skin cancer can appear anywhere.
What Are the Causes of Skin Cancer?
The primary cause of skin cancer is from ultraviolet radiation and 90% of melanomas are the result of UV rays. Ultraviolet radiation is emitted from the sun, sunlamps, and tanning booths. Skin cancer is not limited by skin type, race, age, where you live, or what you do, but there are factors that will put you at a greater risk of developing skin cancer. The factors that put you at a greater risk of skin cancer are: genetics, gender (male), older in age, fair skin, the number of abnormalities to your skin, and how close you live to the equator or higher in elevation. These factors are not the only factors in someone developing skin cancer, but studies have shown that people with these factors have a higher rate of skin cancer. Studies have also shown that the more of these factors you have the more susceptible you are to developing skin cancer.
What Are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
In general, any changes to your skin need to be checked out by a professional. These include new growths, changes to existing moles, and lesions that don’t heal in a timely manner. Basal and squamous cell carcinoma can appear in a variety of different forms: small, white, or pink nodules; smooth, shiny, waxy, or pitted on the surface; a red spot that is rough, dry, or scaly; a red bump that is firm and forms a crust; a group of nodules that are crusted; a sore that bleeds but doesn’t heal in a timely manner; and/or a white patch that looks like scar tissue. When looking for malignant carcinomas watch for the “ABCDE’s”:
- Asymmetry: a growth with an unmatched half
- Border irregularity: edges of a spot are ragged and/or blurred
- Color: mottled appearance with shades of tan, brown, and/or black that is sometimes mixed with red, white, and/or blue.
- Diameter: a spot that is more than 6 millimeters across or any unusual increase in size
- Evolving: a spot that has grown and/or changed in appearance.
You are the first line of defense in combating skin cancer by knowing what your skin looks like and any unusual changes that occur to your skin.
What Are the Types of Skin Cancer?
Skin cancers are divided into two major groups: non-melanoma and melanoma.
The two types of non-melanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and the least dangerous. Very seldom is basal cell carcinoma life-threatening because it grows slowly and rarely spreads. Even though it is not life-threatening, it can grow deep beneath the skin to underlying tissue and bone causing serious damage. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second type of non-melanoma skin cancer and is the second most common type of skin cancer. It frequently appears on the lips, face, and ears but can spread to distant parts of the body including lymph nodes and internal organs. If not treated, squamous cell carcinoma can become life-threatening.
Malignant melanoma is the least common type but incidents are increasing rapidly especially in the sunbelt states. Even though malignant melanoma is the least common, it is the most dangerous. If found early it can be completely cured. If malignant melanoma is not treated quickly it may spread throughout the body and can often be deadly.
What Is the Treatment for Skin Cancer?
The treatment for skin cancer will depend on: the type, stage, and size of the skin cancer and where it is located on your body. The general process for all skin cancer is: removal, reconstruction, and recovery. The type of removal will be influenced by the factors listed above but can include: excision surgery, curettage and electrodesiccation, cryosurgery, and/or radiation therapy. The purpose of reconstruction is the repair the body to it’s pre-skin cancer state and will largely depend on the type of removal used. The recovery stage of treatment is to allow the body to heal after surgery.
Why Choose Swinyer-Woseth Dermatology?
Swinyer-Woseth Dermatology brings more than 30 years of experience with them when they meet with you to discuss your skin and your skin care needs. Our practice is composed of board certified dermatologists and licensed cosmetic service providers that use the latest advancements and treatment methods such as Mohs surgery. We bring a personalized approach to each of our clients that we care for in the Salt Lake City, Wasatch Front, and surrounding areas. If you would like more information about skin cancer and its treatment, or any other skin care needs, please contact us.