What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the United States, happens when skin cells grow abnormally. There are three main types of skin cancer. Basal and squamous cell cancers are the most common and are usually found on skin frequently exposed to the sun. Melanoma frequently develops in a mole and is the most serious form of skin cancer.
Baptist Health is known for advanced, superior care for patients with cancer and the diagnosis, treatment and management of skin cancer. Our accredited, award-winning cancer care team includes surgical specialists, nurse navigators, genetic counselors and psychosocial support.
You will appreciate timely appointments and a professional, friendly atmosphere where we take time to listen to your concerns. At Baptist Health, you have access to the region’s most comprehensive, multidisciplinary team of specialists and innovative therapies, including many available only through specialized clinical trials. In every way, we work to demonstrate the utmost in excellent care to those who trust us with their health
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of skin cancer may include:
- A new bump, scaly patch, sore or spot that does not heal after two weeks
- A spot on your skin that changes, itches or bleeds
- A mole that changes size, shape or color
To determine if someone has skin cancer, we perform a physical examination and ask questions about symptoms. We then use advanced diagnostic procedures and technology to effectively diagnose, inform treatment and carefully monitor the condition. Diagnostic procedures can include:
Dermascopy: In this test the doctor uses a special magnifying lens and light to view the suspicious skin patch.
Skin biopsy: During this procedure, a local anesthetic is provided and a layer of the suspicious area of skin is shaved off or a deeper section of skin is removed for examination under a microscope for cancer cells.
Imaging tests: If the doctor suspects the skin cancer has spread to the lymph nodes, imaging tests like an X-ray or a CT scan may be performed.
Sun damage is the main risk factor for skin cancer.
Risk factors that can contribute to skin cancer include:
Complexion: People with fair complexions and those with freckles have an increased risk of sunburn, which can lead to skin cancer.
Eye and hair color: People with blond or red hair or blue or green eyes have more sensitive skin that is at risk for skin cancer.
Skin injuries: Skin injuries that leave a scar can increase the risk of skin cancer.
Family history: A family history of skin cancer increases the risk of the disease.
Autoimmune diseases: Certain autoimmune diseases like lupus, or conditions that weaken the immune system, make the skin sensitive to sunlight and increase the risk of sun damage that could lead to skin cancer.
Medications: Medications that make the skin sensitive to sunlight or that lower or suppress the immune system can increase the risk for sun damage, which can lead to skin cancer.
While some risk factors cannot be controlled, there are ways you can help prevent skin cancer:
Avoid sun exposure: Sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer. Wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher every day. Avoid sun exposure from the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and cover up. When outdoors, sunscreen with broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays and an SPF value of 30 or higher is recommended.
Do not use tanning beds: Indoor tanning exposes your skin to two types of ultraviolet light that increases your risk for skin cancer.
Examine your skin: Examine your skin, front and back, every month. If you notice a change that does not heal within two weeks, call your doctor.
Prognosis depends upon how early the cancer is diagnosed, the size and location of the skin cancer, and if it has spread.
Treatment and Recovery
Skin cancer treatment depends upon how far the condition has progressed. The goal is to eliminate the cancer.
Surgery is the most common treatment for skin cancer. Surgical procedures can include:
- Mohs surgery: In this procedure, the skin is numbed and a layer of the skin where the cancer is suspected is removed and checked for cancer cells. If cancer cells are seen, another layer of skin is removed and checked, and the process continues until the skin layer shows no signs of cancer.
- Curettage and electrodessication: After the doctor scrapes the skin cancer to remove it, an electric needle is applied to the area to destroy any remaining cancer cells.
- Laser surgery: A laser can be used to focus an intense beam of light on the skin cancer to destroy it.
- Cryosurgery: In this procedure, a cold gas is applied to the skin cancer to freeze and destroy the cancer cells.
After surgery, or if cancer has spread elsewhere in the body, special drugs designed to kill cancer cells can be given as a pill or injected into the bloodstream.
After surgery, or if cancer has spread elsewhere in the body, high-energy radiation is used to kill cancer cells. The radiation is directed specifically to the area of the skin where the cancer is.
Immunotherapy can stimulate the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Skin cancer can recur or spread to other parts of the body.