Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one

million people are  diagnosed with skin cancer each year and the annual rates are increasing. Around 50 percent of people

who live to age 65 years of age will develop skin cancer at least once. There are two kinds of skin tumors, benign

(non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous).



Risk Factors for Skin Cancer:

  • Fair skin that burns or freckles easily
  • Multiple moles (especially if there are more than 100)
  • History of sunburns
  • Excessive sun exposure without sun protection
  • Use of tanning beds
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Personal history of skin cancer
  • Weakened immune system such as is seen organ transplant patients

How to Reduce Risk of Skin Cancer:

Slip, Slap, Slop is the name of one of the most successful health campaigns ever. It was launched in 1981 by The Australian Cancer Council. In later years, it was extended to include sunglasses and shade.

SLIP on a shirt
SLOP on sunscreen
SLAP on a hat
SEEK shade
SLIDE on some sunglasses

Three Most Common Types of Skin Cancer:

 Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer and may present as a sore that just won‘t heal. This type is easiest to treat and cure, and it usually does not spread to other parts of the body. If left untreated, can be quite disfiguring and be more difficult to remove. It can be inherited, but usually occurs in patients who have had repeated sun exposure.

 Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is another common type of skin cancer usually appearing on sun-exposed skin. It is more aggressive than BCC and can spread (metastasize) to sites elsewhere in the body. It may develop from a precancerous lesion which presents as a scaly, crusty bump on sun–damaged skin.

 Malignant Melanoma (MM) is the least common but most serious form of skin cancer. It may present as a mole with uneven borders, with different colors, or a recent change in appearance. Melanoma most commonly occurs on the back of men, and the lower legs of women but can occur in other places. It can stem from a mole that has been present for many years or a new lesion. If treated early, results are good.

ABCDEs of Malignant Melanoma:

A = Asymmetry- One half does not match the other half
B = Border irregularity- The edges are notched or ragged
C = Color variation- Varied shades of tan,blacl and brown
D = Diameter- Greater than 6 millimeters
E = Evolving- Significant change in size,shape, or shade of color 

Treatments for Skin Cancer Depend on:

  • The stage of the cancer
  • The type of cancer
  • The size and location of the tumor
  • The patient’s general health and preferences

Some of the many treatment options available include simple excision or shaving, scraping and burning, freezing, lasers, radiation, chemotherapy, and Mohs surgery.