Skin cancer is a growing concern in the United States and elsewhere. In the U.S., more than three million new cases of the disease are diagnosed each year. If caught and treated early, it has a high cure rate, which is why the Patient Preferred Dermatology team recommends regular checkups by a dermatologist experienced in screening for skin cancer. Long Beach, Orange County, and all of Southern California are known for sunny days and exposed skin, so scheduling annual examinations is particularly important
The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet light, most commonly from the sun, but also from tanning beds or psoriasis light treatments. In addition to ultraviolet light, some skin cancers are also associated with environmental toxins, smoking, chronic ulcers and scars. Skin cancer also occurs in immunosuppressed patients. The risk of melanoma, an aggressive form of cancer, is inherited in some families. A specialist at Patient Preferred Dermatology can explain more during your exam or consultation
Skin cancer looks different from person to person. You should see a dermatologist for a new bump or patch that is different from other spots, if something on your skin changes in color, shape, or size, or if you develop new symptoms, such as itching or bleeding that last for more than two weeks.
Our office is proud to have experienced dermatologists who perform skin cancer detection exams, surgical treatments, and reconstructive facial surgeries. Our doctors are members of the American College of Mohs Surgery and the American Society of Mohs Surgery. We will help you detect skin cancer early so you have the best medical and cosmetic outcome.
An actinic keratosis is a skin lesion that may develop into cancer, so it is considered to be "pre-cancer." Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common skin cancers. Melanoma is much less common but has a higher mortality rate. Still, keep in mind that about 15,000 people die each year from skin cancer, and about a third of those deaths are due to non-melanoma cancers.
Frequently appearing as a wart-like bump, an actinic keratosis is a rough, scaly growth caused most typically by sun exposure (i.e. exposure to ultraviolet radiation), although other forms of radiation can also be the cause. As noted above, actinic keratoses are dubbed "pre-cancers," since five to 10 percent of these lesions develop into skin cancers. Most cases of squamous cell carcinoma start as an actinic keratosis.
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This most common form of skin cancer is generally localized and slow to spread, making it very treatable, especially if caught early. Named for the skin layer in which it forms, basal cell carcinoma disrupts the cells responsible for replacing old skin cells as they die off. Treatment options include surgery, including Mohs surgery, and in early cases a topical cream. If left untreated, basal cell carcinoma can create tumors that are both wide and deep, impacting important muscles, blood vessels, and nerves in the immediate area.
Forming in the cells that make up the bulk of the skin's outermost layer, squamous cell carcinoma is less common than basal cell carcinoma, but is more aggressive. While it is still highly curable, if left untreated, this cancer is more likely to spread deeper into the skin and metastasize to other parts of the body. Like other skin cancers, squamous cell carcinoma most frequently is caused by exposure to the sun's ultraviolet radiation. This cancer responds to various treatments designed to remove cancer cells from the body.
This rarer form of skin cancer, melanoma is also the most deadly. Ultraviolet radiation exposure may play a part in its development, but genetic factors may also be a cause. Melanoma forms in melanocytes, which are the cells that make pigment in the skin. If left to spread, melanoma can be fatal, but if caught early, it can be cured. The ideal treatment regimen depends on the stage, which may involve surgery, radiation therapy, chemical and immunotherapy, or a combination of strategies.
The most precise and effective treatment for skin cancer is Mohs surgery. Acting as both the surgeon and pathologist, a specially trained doctor takes multiple, very thin layers of skin tissue and examines the tissue under a microscope until no further cancer is present. This sophisticated technique has two main benefits: It removes all of the cancer cells at the surgery site, and it minimizes the aesthetic impact by taking only tissue impacted by cancer cells. Not every patient is a candidate for Mohs, but for those who are, the surgery can have a cure rate as high as 98 percent. Learn more about the surgery on our page dedicated to Mohs skin cancer treatment.
* individual results may vary