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What everyone should know about skin cancer: From the early signs to the treatment options

By Angela S. Casey, MD

There’s no way around it: skin cancer is an epidemic that affects just about everyone in one way or another, especially when you look at the startling statistics.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation:  

  • Over 5 million cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the U.S.
  • About 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer by the time they reach age 70.
  • More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year compared to all other cancers combined.


Skin cancer: From the causes to the treatment options

Whether you’re concerned about a spot, or you’ve recently been diagnosed with skin cancer, we’ll cover everything you need to know before taking the next step.


What’s behind the epidemic?

The alarming statistics above may leave you wondering, what’s causing this epidemic? While most types are caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun or tanning beds, some are associated with certain viruses, with the most common one being HPV.

There’s also a genetic component to melanoma specifically. Patients with a family history of melanoma are more likely to develop this form of cancer compared to those without any family history in first degree relatives.

Finally, the immune system also plays an important role. Surveillance of individuals who have suppressed immune systems from medications or other illnesses are more likely to develop skin cancer compared to the general population. Organ transplant patients are almost 100x more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma.


You’re not alone – a look at the most common forms of skin cancer

The most common forms of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous (pronounced like famous) cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma – Over 4 million patients are diagnosed with basal cell every year, making it the most common form.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Squamous is more common in patients that have depressed immune systems from an organ transplant or other medications, as well as those with a history of leukemia.

Melanoma – Though the cure rate for melanoma is very high when detected and treated early, it’s estimated that more than 190,000 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2019.


Is it skin cancer? How to spot the early signs

Different types of skin cancers present themselves in different ways:

  • Basal cell carcinoma is a very sneaky cancer since it doesn’t appear super alarming. It can present itself as a patch of skin that keeps bleeding, breaking open or getting irritated for several months without healing, but it can also look like a pimple that just won’t go away.
  • Squamous can be pretty similar to basal in the fact that it can seem like a spot on the skin that just won’t go away, but unlike basal cell carcinoma, it often projects out and has more of a crust associated with it.  
  • On the other hand, melanoma usually shows up as a dark brown to black-colored spot, but can, though rare, present as a pink bump or spot.


Treatment options: the next step after a diagnosis

There are many options when it comes to treating skin cancer, and the best treatment depends on several factors such as the microscopic pattern of the cancer, where it’s located on the body, as well as the patients overall health and what they can tolerate.

In some cases, a topical ointment such as Aldara can get rid of the cancer while other cancers may require what’s known as electrodesiccation and curettage, which burns the base of the cancer. Simple surgical excision and radiation are some other options, though for patients with cancer in cosmetically sensitive areas like the head or neck, Mohs surgery is often the go-to treatment.

What you should know when searching for the right skin cancer doctor

When looking for a doctor to treat your skin cancer, a board-certified dermatologist is always optimal. Of course, a highly trained nurse practitioner or physician assistant that is closely associated with a board-certified dermatologist is also going to be able to provide quality care as well.

Skin cancer can be scary, and simply knowing the signs and symptoms can be life-saving. The key to any type of cancer is catching it as early as possible – hence the need for monthly skin cancer self-exams, along with doctor visits.

If you do find yourself battling skin cancer, it’s essential to find the right highly trained and experienced doctor who can guide you through your treatment options and help you select the one that’s going to give you the best possible outcome of being cancer free.


Contact Center for Surgical Dermatology for Skin Cancer Treatment in Westerville, OH

Center for Surgical Dermatology is the largest medical and surgical skin treatment and wellness facility in Central Ohio. Since 2007, our board-certified Dermatologists, fellowship-trained Mohs surgeons, and caring professional staff have provided patients with treatment they can trust in an environment second to none.. Learn more about our state-of-the-art Dermatology Center before booking your appointment today.

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