Cancer is a disease in which some of the body’s cells grow uncontrollably and can spread to other body areas, if undetected with routine screening. This disease can begin anywhere in the body. The most common type of cancer in the U.S., is skin cancer, most of which is caused by mutations from the sun. These mutations cause abnormal skin cells to multiply quickly and form malignant tumors. When caught and treated early by a skin cancer specialist, skin cancer is highly treatable.
Early detection of skin cancer provides patients with the greatest chance of successful skin cancer treatment. Dermatology Associates is dedicated to providing each patient with specialized, personalized, and compassionate care for identifying and treating skin cancers of all types, stages, and grades. Each dermatologist in Gainesville with our practice leverages their wealth of experience and utilizes the latest developments in skin cancer technology for the treatment and removal of cancerous and precancerous skin lesions. Prioritize the health and longevity of your skin — contact our dermatology office today to schedule a dermatology appointment and to learn more about our available skin cancer treatments.
What Is Skin Cancer?
Cancer is a disease in which cells in the body grow uncontrollably. Skin cancer begins in the skin and is the most common type of cancer in the United States, with millions of cases diagnosed each year. The most common types of skin cancer include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Melanoma is much less common, but it is more likely to invade nearby tissue and spread to other body areas. Additionally, melanoma accounts for the majority of deaths from skin cancer. Some individuals have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others, though it can affect anyone. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma begin in the basal and squamous layers of the skin, respectively, while melanoma begins in the melanocytes.
There are two main types of skin cancer: nonmelanoma skin cancer and melanoma skin cancer. Non-melanoma skin cancer includes basal cell skin cancer and squamous cell skin cancer, among other rare types. The most preventable cause of skin cancer is overexposure of the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light, whether from natural sunlight or through artificial sources, such as tanning beds. In addition to causing photodamage and the subsequent development of photoaging, or premature aging of the skin due to sun damage, UV rays can likewise result in the development of skin cancer. Discuss your concerns with our skin cancer specialist; contact Dermatology Associates.
Types Of Skin Cancer
The skin is the body’s largest organ. It performs several vital functions, including protecting the inside of the body from harm, helping to maintain an adequate body temperature, removing waste products through sweat, and making vitamin D, which helps form and maintain bones. The skin is made up of two primary layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The thickness of the epidermis, or the outermost layer of skin, and the dermis, or the thick layer of living tissue below the epidermis, varies depending on the body area. The cells in the epidermis are most at risk of sun damage, as skin cancer primarily develops on sun-exposed skin, though it can arise in areas that rarely see the light of day. The following comprises the most common skin cancer types. Contact our office for more information about skin cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell skin cancer (BCC), also called basal cell carcinoma, is a non-melanoma skin cancer that starts in the basal cells. The most common cell types found in the epidermis are keratinocytes. Basal cells are a type of keratinocyte located in the bottom of the epidermis. All normal skin cells form in the basal layer, which is where basal cell skin cancer develops. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer at it often develops in areas of the skin exposed to the sun, such as the head, face, neck, chest, and ears, though it can develop elsewhere. This type of skin cancer usually appears on the surface of the skin. In most cases, basal cell carcinoma does not spread to other body areas. In rare cases, where this type of skin cancer spreads elsewhere, it can be life threatening. Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a pearly or waxy bump, a flat skin-colored or brow lesion similar looking to a scar, or a bleeding or scabbed sore that heals and returns.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is a nonmelanoma skin cancer affecting the cells located in the outermost part of the epidermis, just above the basal layer. Most often, squamous cell carcinoma develops on sun-exposed skin, such as the face, scalp, neck, ears, and hands, among other areas of the body where the skin often reveals signs of sun damage, wrinkles, and sun-related skin discoloration. Individuals with darker skin tones are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma on areas not often exposed to sunlight. Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red-colored nodule or a flat lesion with a crusted, scaly skin covering. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer, next to basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cell carcinomas may grow quickly and metastasize if they are not detected and treated early.
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in cells known as melanocytes, which are cells located in the deep layer of the epidermis and in between the layer of basal cells. Melanocytes create melanin, a pigment that gives the skin its natural color and protects the body from ultraviolet radiation from the sun. UV radiation can result in the development of sunburns, which indicate damage to the genetic material in skin cells, or DNA. Over time, DNA damage can cause the cells to grow out of control and develop cancer. Melanoma skin cancer can also develop in a mole (malignant melanoma and atypical moles), or more rarely, in body areas not frequently exposed to sunlight. Melanoma occurs less frequently than other types of skin cancer, yet these cancers are more likely to spread and may be more difficult to treat if they are not caught early in their development cycle. Most melanomas are treatable when caught early.
Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer
Nonmelanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly and gradually develop on the skin. The first sign of non-melanoma skin cancer is the appearance of a lump or discolored skin lesion that persists after a few weeks and slowly grows over months or even years. This lesion is the cancer, or tumor. In many cases, cancerous bumps are red-colored and firm to the touch, and they may ulcerate, while canceroious patches typically appear as flat and scaly lesions. Non-melanoma skin cancer usually appears on areas of the skin that is regularly exposed to the sun, such as the face, hands, ears, neck, shoulders, upper chest, and back. The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. In addition to sun exposure, other risk factors for nonmelanoma skin cancers may include a previous non-melanoma skin cancer, a family history of skin cancer, a large number of moles or freckles, having a suppressed immune system, and skin that burns easily.
What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
There are several different types of skin cancer and, as such, signs of skin cancer may not all appear the same or present with similar symptoms. In some cases, a lesion may not cause any initial skin cancer symptoms at all. Still, it’s important to know all of the possible warning signs of cancerous lesions. Unusual changes in your skin can indicate a type of cancer. Being able to identify changes to your skin may help you receive an earlier diagnosis, and subsequent treatment. Inspect your skin regularly for the following signs of potential skin cancer spots. If your skin changes or if you notice any changes to your skin that worry you, contact Dermatology Associates to schedule an appointment with our dermatologists.
- New Skin Lesions. New moles, unusual skin growths, bumps, sores, scaly patches, and dark spots that develop and don’t disappear.
- Asymmetry. The two halves of your mole, sore, or skin lesion are not identical.
- Irregular Border. The mole or lesion has an irregular outline shape, with ragged or uneven edges.
- Unusual Color. A spot has an unusual color that is different from the surrounding skin. The spot may be white, pink, black, blue, or red, or it may have more than one color.
- Large In Diameter. The size of the mole or lesion is larger than a quarter-inch in diameter, or approximately the size of a standard pencil eraser.
- An Evolving Nature. The mole or lesion has an evolving nature. It may change in size, shape, color, or it may itch, cause pain, or bleed.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when mutations, or errors, take place in the DNA of skin cells. These mutations causes out-of-control cell growth, resulting in the formation of a mass of cancerous cells. Skin cancer begins in the skin’s top layer, or the epidermis. This outermost layer of skin provides protection to your skin cells, which your body sheds regularly. The epidermis has three primary types of cells: squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes. Squamous cells are located just below the outer surface and function as the skin’s inner lining. Basal cells produce new skin cells and sit underneath the squamous cells. Melanocytes produce melanin and are located in the lower part of the epidermis.
The original point of your skin cancer will determine the type of cancer you have and your available treatment options. Among the most notable skin cancer causes is ultraviolet (UV) radiation. A significant portion of the damage caused to DNA in the skin cells results from exposure of the skin to UV radiation found in natural sunlight and the lights used in tanning beds or booths. However, sun exposure may not account for skin cancers developed on skin that is not regularly exposed to sunlight. As such, othe factors may contribute to one’s risk of developing skin cancer. This may include exposure to toxic substances or having an immune-suppresssing medical condition.
What Are The Risk Factors For Skin Cancer?
A person can develop skin cancer when mutations develop in the DNA of their skin cells. The mutations cause the cells to grow uncontrollably, forming a mass of cancer cells. Many of the causes of skin cancer are unclear, however, there are several risk factors that may increase your risk of developing skin cancers, including the following. Discuss your risk factors for developing skin cancer with your dermatologist, who can identify steps you may take to help mitigate your chance of developing skin cancer.
- Fair Skin. Anyone, with any color or tone of skin, can develop skin cancer. Yet, having less melanin in your skin reduces your protection from UV raditation. People with blonde or red hair and light-colored eyes, with skin that burns easily have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than those with darker skin.
- History Of Sunburns. If you have experienced one or more severe, blistering sunburn, whether as a child or teenager, then you have an increased risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns during adulthood are likewise a risk factor.
- Sun Exposure. Anyone who spends a substantial amount of time in the sun may develop skin cancer, particularly if their skin is not adequately protected by sunscreen or sun-protective clothing. Tanning, whether under natural sunlight or with tanning lamps and beds, also increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Smoking Cigarettes. The tobacco in cigarettes is a toxin that damages the DNA of the skin cells, just like sunlight. Face and hands are the most at risk.
- Sunny Climates. Individuals who live in warm, hot, and sunny climates are typically exposed to a greater amount of sunlight than those living in colder climates. Additionally, living or spending time in higher elevations exposes the skin to increased UV radiation.
- Moles (Nevi). People with several moles and those with dysplastic nevi (abnormal moles) are more likely than others to develop skin cancer. Abnormal moles are more likely to become cancerous. Watch your moles regularly for changes of any kind.
- Precancerous Skin Lesions. Certain skin lesions, such as actinic keratosis, can increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. These precancerous lesions are most common on sun-damaged skin on the face, head, and hands in fair-skinned individuals. They can appear as rough patches with a brown or dark pink color.
- History Of Skin Cancer. If you develop skin cancer once, you are at risk of developing it again. Additionally, if one of your parents or a sibling has or had skin cancer, you may have a hightened risk of developing the disease.
- Weakened Immune System. Individuals with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. This applies to those living with HIV/AIDS and people taking immunosuppressant medications, such as after organ transplantation.
- Exposure To Certain Substances. Exposure to certain substances, including arsenic and other toxic substances, may increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Additionally, exposure to radiation, such as during treatment for certain skin conditions, may increase your risk of developing skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma.
How Do Dermatologists Diagnose Skin Cancer?
To diagnose skin cancer, your dermatologist may examine your skin and perform a skin biopsy. During the examination, your doctor may examine your skin to determine whether changes to your skin are likely to be skin cancer. Further testing following the examination may be required to confirm a diagnosis. During a skin biopsy, your dermatologist may remove a sample from the suspicious-looking skin area for testing in a laboratory, which can help determine whether or not you have skin cancer and, if so, the type of skin cancer you have. If your doctor determines you have skin cancer, you may require additional tests to determine the extent, or stage, of the skin cancer. Additional tests may include imaging tests, which examine nearby lymph nodes for signs of cancer, or a procedure to remove a nearby lymph node and test it. Contact Dermatology Associates to schedule an appointment.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated?
The type skin cancer treatment you receive will depend on a number of different factors, depending on the size, type, depth, and location of the lesions. After considering these factors, your provider will discuss your options for treatment with you and they may recommend one or more of the following treatments Small skin cancer lesions that are limited to the surface of the skin may not require treatment beyond an initial skin biopsy, during which the entirety of the growth is removed.
Dermatology Associates is a full-service medical and surgical dermatology practice providing members of the Gainesville community with the highest quality of dermatology services, using innovative techniques, consultative support, and state-of-the-art equipment for the benefit of our patients and their health. Schedule an appointment today.
Actinic keratoses and other types of small, early stage cancer lesions may be destroyed by freezing the lesions with liquid nitrogen. This procedure is known as cryosurgery. During cryosurgery, the dead skin tissue sloughs off as the treated area thaws.
Curettage & Electrodesiccation
Curettage and electrodesiccation, occurs after the majority of a growth is removed, with biopsy. During this procedure, your doctor scrapes away layers of cancer cells using a curet, or a device with a circular blade. Using an electric needle, your doctor destroys any remaining cancer cells. These procedures are typically quick and relatively simple to perform, and may be used to treat thin squamous cell skin cancers and basal cell skin cancers.
Excisional surgery may be appropriate for use in treating any type of skin cancer. During this procedure, your surgeon excises or cuts out, the cancerous tissue as well as a surrounding margin of healthy skin. In some cases, a wide excision, or removing an additional amount of normal skin around the cancerous tissue, may be recommended.
Mohs micrographic surgery, or Mohs surgery, is a procedure typically used for treating large, recurring, or difficult-to-treat skin cancers, including both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. This form of skin cancer surgery is often used in area of the body where it is necessary to conserve as much skin as possible. During Mohs surgery, your surgeon will gradually remove each layer of the skin growth, examining each layer under a microscope, until no abnormal cells are present. This procedure allows for the removal of cancerous cells without the requirement for removing an excessive amount of surrounding healthy tissue.
Radiation therapy uses high-powered beams of energy to kill cancer cells. This form of treatment may be recommended in cases where the cancer cannot be completely removed through surgical excision.
Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. For cancers that are limites to the top layer of skin, topical medications containing anti-cancer agents may be used and applied directly to the skin. Systemic chemotherapy may be used in treatments for cancers that have spread to other areas of the body.
What Are The Stages Of Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer stages indicate the size of a cancer and whether or not it has spread to surrounding tissue and organs. Doctors use cancer staging to describe the extent of the cancer in the patient’s body. Staging and grading of skin cancer may differ from patient-to-patient and between melanoma skin cancers and non-melanoma skin cancers. Identifying the stage of cancer can help your provider make the best decision for the treatment you require. The grade of a cancer indicates the degree to which the cancer cells appear as normal cells. Patients may require testing in order to stage their cancer, depending on their type of skin cancer. Stages of skin cancer include: Stage 0, Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and Stage 4. For more information about the stages and grades of skin cancer, please contact our office.
How To Prevent Skin Cancer
The majority of skin cancers are preventable. To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, there are several steps you can take, including the following: sun avoidance, sun protection, no smoking, and skin exams. It’s important to become familiar with your skin and any spots, lesions, or moles you may have. Regularly examine your skin for new growths or spots. Additionally, regularly scheduling skin examination appointments with your dermatologist can help with early identification and treatment of any cancerous lesions. If you develop skin cancer, identificaiton and early treatment can help improve your long-term outlook. Contact Dermatology Associates today to schedule your appointment.
Avoid Sunlight At Midday
With regard to the strength of sunlight, timing makes a difference for protecting your skin. Avoid the sun during the middle of the day, or when the sun’s rays are strongest (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), year-round. Whether it is sunny or cloudy outside, you absorb UV radiation no matter the time of year or season. Avoiding the sun when its at its strongest can help you avoid experiencing sunburns and suntans, which cause skin damage and heighten your risk of developing skin cancer. Accumulated sun exposure over time can likewise increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Additionally, you should always avoid tanning, whether its outdoors and under natural sunlight or indoors and in tanning beds and tanning booths.
Wear Sunscreen Year-Round
Sunscreens are substances that help protect the skin from the majority of the sun’s harmful UV rays. However, sunscreens don’t filter out all UV radiation, particuarly the radiation that can cause melanoma, yet they play a significant role in an overall sun-protection regimen. Our dermatologists recommend that patients apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 35, generously to all areas of their skin, and reapply every 2 hours. Reapply sunscreen more frequently if you swim or perspire. Use a generous amount of sunscreen, focusing on all exposed skin, including the face, lips, tips of the ears, and backs of the hands and neck. Use sunscreen 365 days a year, whether it’s cloudy or sunny outside. Your dermatologist can provide you with sunscreen recommendations for a formulation that best suits your unique skin type and requirements for UV protection.
Wear Sun-Protective Clothing
Sun-protective topical products like sunscreen don’t offer the skin complete protection from UV rays. Supplement your daily use of sunscreen by wearing sun-protective clothing. Wear clothing with tightly woven fabric that covers your skin, including your arms and legs, and wear a broad-brimmed hat while outdoors. The brim of your hat should be wide enough to shade your face, head, ears, and neck from exposure to sunlight. Some clothing companies sell photoprotective clothing. Your dermatologist may recommend an appropriate brand. Don’t forget to protect your eyes! Wear sunglasses that offer 100% ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) protection.
Note Sun-Sensitizing Medications
Taking certain prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs can increase your risk of skin damage due to a higher sensitization of the skin to UV radiation. This can include antibiotics, and other prescribed medications, as well as over-the-counter topical creams and ointments containing retinol and other chemicals. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of any medications you take or intend to use. If a product or medication increases your sensitivity to sunlight, be sure to take extra precautions to avoid the sun in order to help protect your skin from damage and the potential for developing skin cancer.
Visit Your Dermatologist Regularly
Your dermatologist is your No.1 source for achieving and maintaining healthy, beautiful skin throughout each stage of life. Schedule appointments regularly with your dermatologist for skin examinations. Tell your doctor about any worrisome or concerning skin changes, moles, spots, or other skin-related issues and monitor your skin for any new skin growths or changes to existing moles, freckles, bumps, and birthmarks. In between appointments, use a mirror to inspect your face, neck, ears, and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk, as well as the undersides of your hands and arms. Inspect the front and back of each leg and each foot, including the soles of your feet and the spaces in between your toes. Additionally, inspect your genital area and the skin between your buttocks.
What Are The Complications Of Skin Cancer?
If you previously had or were diagnosed with skin cancer, you have an increased risk of developing subsequent cancerous lesions in another location. If your skin cancer recurs, the treatment options available to you will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of skin cancer you have, your current health status, and your prior history of treatment for skin cancer. Potential complications of skin cancer include the following.
- Recurrence. Following treatment for skin cancer, the disease returns.
- Local Recurrence. Cancer cells spread to the surrounding tissue.
- Metastasis. The cancer cells spread to the nerves, muscles, or other organs.