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Skin Cancer

Overview

Overview

There are 3 most common skin cancer types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

If caught early, these can be curable by surgery alone. If caught later, it can be life-threatening.

 

Desiree Ratner, Md, PC

Types

Types

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common skin cancer, with over 2 million cases diagnosed in the United States every year. BCC, it usually arises in sun-exposed areas, but can occur anywhere on the skin, including the genital region.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer. SCC is more serious than BCC because if left untreated it can spread and become life-threatening.

Melanoma is less common than other skin cancers, but it is one of the deadliest. Melanoma arises from pigment cells in the skin.

Symptoms & Causes

Symptoms & Causes

BCC is a slowly growing skin cancer which is not usually life threatening, but if left untreated can grow deeply and become locally destructive. Although it often arises in patients with fair skin, patients of all skin types and colors can develop BCC. 

SCC may appear as a sore that doesn’t heal, or a scaly red patch that feels rough or bleeds. However, when detected early, it is straightforward to treat. 

While a history of excessive exposure to sunlight may play a role, there is also a genetic predisposition to developing melanoma, which sometimes runs in families. Patients with a previous or family history of melanoma, or who have a large number of moles, or atypical/dysplastic moles, are at greater risk for developing melanoma. 

Desiree Ratner, Md, PC

Treatment

Treatment

Some low risk BCCs can be treated with topical creams, while others require treatment with local destruction or excision. High risk BCCs are more likely to be treated with Mohs micrographic surgery to increase the probability of cure. Large or aggressive BCCs that may not curable with surgery or radiation can be controlled with newer oral agents.

Like BCCs, small, low risk SCCs may be treated with topical creams, local destruction or excision. High risk SCCs, which have more risk factors for recurrence, are more likely to be treated with Mohs micrographic surgery to increase the probability of cure.

If caught early, melanoma can be curable by surgery alone. If caught later, it can be life-threatening. Fortunately, new targeted and immune therapies are available to treat patients with more advanced disease, providing them with improved survival and quality of life.

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