Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer Screening:
      The sun is responsible for over 90 percent of all skin cancers. Sun induced skin cancers are the most common cancers of Caucasian adults. The incidence of skin cancer is increasing in epidemic proportions in our country, with patients in higher elevations such as Colorado at increased risk! The risk of developing a melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer, doubles every 10 years of your adult life. Screenings have been proven to be helpful in finding these cancers early and in decreasing the chance of dying from these cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends professional skin exams every year for those over 40, and every three years for those 20 to 40 especially if you live in a sunny climate. In addition to having these routine dermatological exams, I recommend you inspect your entire body monthly for any skin changes and consult your dermatologist immediately if you notice new skin variations.

There are many types of skin cancer, but three forms of skin cancer predominate: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Anyone can be diagnosed with cancer at any age. Doctors link these forms of cancer to overexposure to the sun and genetic predisposition. Tanning booths can also increase your risk, as can exposure to radiation or high altitude. Because each type of skin cancer has a different presentation, it is important to alert your physician if you notice any change in the size, shape, or color of spots. Skin cancer may present as a bump or “pimple-like” area that doesn’t go away after a reasonable amount of time. Time is of the essence, and when caught early, many forms of skin cancer can be successfully treated.


(Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides. © 2005 American Academy of Dermatology)

Actinic Keratoses are dry, scaly patches that form on the outermost layers of skin after years of chronic sun exposure.  AK's are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer and have the potential to develop into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated.  It is important that anyone with AK's be under a dermatologists care because they are at high risk for developing skin cancer.

We offer Photodynamic Therapy for AK treatment

 


(Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides. © 2005 American Academy of Dermatology)

Basal cell carcinoma is the most prevalent form of skin cancer. It appears as an irregularly shaped blemish or translucent papule that crusts over or bleeds without healing. While this form of cancer is rarely life threatening, failure to treat it in a timely manner can cause significant scarring.

 


(Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides. © 2005 American Academy of Dermatology)

Squamous cell carcinoma often originates on the face, arms, and other sun-exposed areas. It can appear as pink, shiny patches or as small red or white bumps on the skin. If not treated, it can spread to the internal organs and become a life threatening condition. This type of cancer is more common in smokers or patients on immunosuppressive therapy after receiving organ transplantation.

 


(Image used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides. © 2005 American Academy of Dermatology)

Malignant melanoma is by far the deadliest form of skin cancer. This form of cancer sometimes begins within moles or more frequently as a new changing mole-like lesion with irregular, uneven borders and multiple colors. This type of cancer is very genetic and anyone with an immediate family member who has a history of malignant melanoma should receive routine skin screening exams by a Dermatologist and perform monthly self skin exams at home. While it occurs less frequently than the other forms of skin cancer, it is more dangerous because, if not treated quickly, it can spread throughout the entire body, proving fatal.

In situations where the cancer is relatively small, your doctor will surgically excise the cancerous skin with a standard margin and then reconstruct the area. In more extreme cases, where the cancer is larger or has spread to other areas of the body, other measures may be recommended. In addition, chemotherapy and Mohs surgery (in which the cancer is taken off in layers) have been successful in eradicating cancerous cells. The important thing is to contact your doctor immediately for a consultation if you feel that you are showing symptoms of any of these conditions. After surgery, it is important to carefully check your skin regularly for recurrences, and you should visit your doctor regularly for routine exams.

For additional information, please visit www.aad.org.