Learn more about skin cancer treatments or find a screening volunteer
One in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer over the course of their lifetimes. With early detection and treatment, however, most skin cancers are completely curable.
Why treat skin cancer
Early detection and treatment of any form of skin cancer is essential both to prevent the disease from spreading to other areas of the body and to achieving better outcomes.
Research has shown that most skin cancers are detected by patients rather than doctors. Learning how to examine your own skin and allowing your physician to periodically help can promote skin health and also can dramatically reduce your risks of having significant problems with skin cancer.
Learn about self-examinations by downloading a free Skin Cancer Self-Exam Kit.
ASDS dermatologists offer free skin cancer screenings as part of the Choose Skin Health program. Find a free Choose Skin Health screening near you.
What you need to know
There are many different kinds of skin cancers, with each type being distinguished by the types of skin cells that are primarily affected. The three most common forms of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC). The most common skin cancer and the most frequent cancer in humans, BCC affects more than 1 million people each year in the United States. BCC develops in the basal cells that make up the deepest layer of the epidermis, the top layer of the skin. BCC may appear as a shiny, translucent or pearly bump; a sore that does not heal; a pink, slightly elevated growth; a reddish irritated patch of skin; or a waxy scar-like lesion. It is most commonly found on skin that has been chronically exposed to the sun, such as the face, ears, scalp, chest and back. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent damage to surrounding tissue.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). This cancer begins in the squamous cells, which also are found in the upper layer of the skin. More than 200,000 cases are reported each year in the United States. SCC may appear as a crusted or scaly area of skin with a red, inflamed base that resembles a growing bump, a non-healing ulcer or a crusted patch of skin. While it usually appears on areas of the body that frequently are exposed to the sun, SCC can develop anywhere, including areas that never typically receive sunlight. SCC requires early treatment to prevent it from causing damage to surrounding body features and from spreading to other areas of the body.Melanoma. This cancer begins in the melanocytes, the cells that provide the skin’s color. Melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer because it can spread rapidly inside the body. Approximately one American dies from melanoma every hour. With early detection and proper treatment, most melanomas are easily cured with minor surgical procedures. Once melanoma leaves the skin and spreads inside the body, the cure rates drop dramatically.
Do's and Don'ts
Reduce sun exposure. Minimize your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest. Sun-protective clothing such as sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves and pants also can help protect your skin.Use sunscreen. Choose a sunscreen everyday with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and with both UVA and UVB protection.Stay out of tanning beds. Avoid exposure to tanning beds and artificial tanning devices.Recognize the ABCDEs of moles and melanoma. During your self-examinations, look for the following warning signs in skin lesions: Asymmetry (not uniform in appearance), Border irregularity (jagged or irregular borders), Color variability, Diameter larger than a pencil eraser and Evolving or changing moles. Any changing skin lesion should be examined by a dermatologist.Visit an ASDS dermatologist. If you notice a suspicious mole or lesion, schedule a visit with an ASDS dermatologist, who is uniquely trained and experienced in the management of diseases of the skin, hair and nails and is your most reliable source for the continued protection and health of your skin.
- Ignore the signs of skin cancer. An annual skin cancer screening by a medical professional is often helpful to identify skin cancer in its early stages. A visit to an ASDS dermatologist should be scheduled if any abnormal skin lesions are noticed since changing moles or non-healing sores can be serious skin cancers.
- Forego a professional medical evaluation. Because some forms of skin cancer can be mistaken for harmless freckles or moles and may therefore be unrecognized by those without proper medical training, it is best to always consult an ASDS dermatologist before undergoing any cosmetic procedure on the skin.
- Be afraid to ask questions. To understand the impact that certain treatments can have on your health and physical appearance, it is important to ask your medical professional the following questions:
- What are my treatment choices? Which alternatives do you recommend? Why?
- What are the expected benefits of each kind of treatment?
- What are the risks and possible side effects of each treatment?
- Will the proposed treatment affect my appearance and normal activities?
Skin cancer treatments
Your ASDS dermatologist will select the most appropriate treatment for a particular skin cancer or precancerous condition from amount the following procedures and techniques:
Mohs surgery. Sequential surgical removal of the skin cancer.Wide-local excision. Surgical removal of the tumor and a portion of the healthy surrounding tissue.Cryosurgery. Destruction by freezing.Laser surgery. Vaporization of the skin cancer by laser.Curettage and Desiccation. Removal of the skin cancer by scraping and cauterization.Topical chemotherapy. Treatment by application of a lotion or cream containing prescription medications.Laser treatments for pre-cancerous growths. Removal by laser of skin conditions that could develop into skin cancer.Photodynamic therapy for pre-cancerous growths. Treatment using special drugs called photosensitizing agents along with light therapy to eradicate pre-cancerous cells.
Skin cancer expertise
In 2013, ASDS dermatologists performed nearly 3.04 million skin cancer procedures, up from 2.69 million in 2012. Because ASDS dermatologists are trained in a variety of the best and latest techniques, they can evaluate and select the best treatment choice based on the individual patient.
Skin cancer treatment questions to ask a dermatologic surgeon