Skin Cancer is represented by three primary categories: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma. Squamous cell and basal cell are the two most common forms of skin cancer with more than 1 million cases of skin cancer being diagnosed in the US each year. The incidence of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, has steadily increased for the past 30 years, and is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29. Individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full body exam at least annually and perform regular self-exams for new and changing moles. The American Cancer Society recommends a skin cancer-related checkup and counseling about sun exposure as part of any periodic health examination for men and women beginning at age 20.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, derived from cells found at the base of the outer skin layer or epidermis. It is estimated that one in every three adults will be diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma in their lifetime. Basal cells typically present as a shiny bump or nodule that is pearly, pink, brown or translucent; an open sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and does not heal; or a reddish scaly patch or irritated area.
Treatment options include electrodesiccation and currettage (the process of using a tool called a curette to scrape away cancerous cells and tissues as well as short, high frequency electric impulses to destroy any remaining cancerous cells and tissues), topical chemotherapy creams, excision with stitches, Mohs micrographic surgery, and radiation. Treatment choice depends on the type of basal cell carcinoma, location, size, and age of the patient.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, which arises from the outermost portion of the skin, called the epidermis. Anyone with a substantial history of sun exposure can develop squamous cell carcinoma. Older people with fair skin and light eyes are at the highest risk. Also, people with occupations that require them to spend long hours outdoors or those who spend extensive leisure time in the sun are at high risk. Immunosuppressed individuals, especially organ transplant patients, are at high risk of developing squamous cell carcinomas.
Treatment options include electrodesiccation and curettage (the process of using a tool called a curette to scrape away cancerous cells and tissues as well as short, high frequency electric impulses to destroy any remaining cancerous cells and tissues), standard surgical excision, Mohs micrographic surgery, topical chemotherapy creams, and radiation.
Melanoma originates from melanocytes or tanning cells. If caught early it is almost 100% curable, but if not treated promptly it can spread to other areas of the body and can be fatal. Melanoma is increasing faster in females 15-29 years old than males in the same age group. In females 15-29 years old, the torso is the most common location for developing melanoma, which might be due to high-risk tanning behaviors. Risk factors for melanoma include history of a lot of sun exposure including sunburns, fair skin, light hair, and blue eyes, many moles and freckles, and a family history of melanoma. Excessive sunlight is the primary cause of melanoma.
Surgery is the only cure for melanoma. An area of normal skin around the melanoma is excised to make sure all the cancer is removed. Sometimes, lymph nodes are also biopsied. If the cancer has metastasized, you may require further surgery, radiation, chemotherapy or immunotherapy.