Skin Cancer and Treatments
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is caused by rapid growth of abnormal skin cells within the skin’s outermost layer, the epidermis. Unrepaired damage to DNA, such as from exposure to UV radiation, causes mutations that lead to rapid skin cell growth that can form malignant tumors.
If skin cancer is caught early, it is highly treatable with little to no scarring or visible signs of its presence. Seeing a board-certified dermatologist regularly increases your chances of catching a growth in its precancerous stages, before it becomes a fully-formed skin cancer beneath the skin’s surface.
Types of Skin Cancer and Symptoms
There are several types of skin cancer, which vary in severity and how they present.
Actinic Keratosis is a precancerous, non-melanoma skin growth that is caused by long-term exposure to UV rays from direct sunlight, tanning beds, or sunlamps. This direct exposure to UV radiation over time damages your keratinocytes (cells that make up the skin), and that damage can put the cells into a precancerous state.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the world, with more than 3 million Americans diagnosed each year, and millions globally. It is a non-melanoma cancer most often caused by unprotected skin exposure to the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a non-melanoma skin cancer that occurs when the squamous cells, which are present throughout the body and in the skin, are altered, typically by exposure to UV radiation from the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps. Squamous Cell Carcinoma gets its name because it affects the top layer of the skin, the Squamous layer.
Melanoma is a very serious type of skin cancer that can be life threatening. It affects Melanocytes, which are the cells in the skin that produce Melanin, or the skin’s pigmentation. Unlike other skin cancers, Melanoma can spread to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes or other organs.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Depending on the type and severity, skin cancers can be treated in a variety of ways. Options range from light therapy and surgical procedures to topical creams. The most common treatments include:
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery, or Mohs Surgery
- Excisional Surgery
- Curettage and Electrodessication (Electrotherapy)
- Laser Surgery
- Radiation Therapy
- Photodynamic Therapy (PDT)
- Topical Treatments