Skin Cancer

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

The two most common types are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. They usually form on the head, face, neck, hands and arms. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is more dangerous but less common. You should have your doctor check any suspicious skin markings and any changes in the way your skin looks. Treatment is more likely to work well when cancer is found early. If not treated, some types of skin cancer cells can spread to other tissues and organs.

Skin cancers may have many different appearances. They can be small, shiny, waxy, scaly and rough, firm and red, crusty or bleeding, or have other features. Therefore, anything suspicious should be looked at by a physician.

Common Symptoms of Skin Cancer

  • Asymmetry: one half of the abnormal skin area is different than the other half

  • Borders: irregular borders

  • Color: varies from one area to another with shades of tan, brown, or black (sometimes white, red, blue)

  • Diameter: usually (but not always) larger than 6 mm in size (diameter of a pencil eraser)

  • Any skin growth that bleeds or will not heal

Melanoma 101: Risks, Detection, and Prevention

Treatment Options For Skin Cancer

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease, and it is important to understand what the risk factors are for melanoma and what to look for on your body. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape, color or feel of a mole. For non-healing lesions, or moles that are changing color and/or size, your doctor may recommend outpatient surgery at the hospital or in-office surgery to remove the lesion/mole.

The most common procedure used to treat skin cancer in any of its various forms is surgery. Skin cancer surgery generally consists of the removal of the cancerous lesion, and an examination of the surrounding tissue to ensure that the cancer was removed entirely. The site is then repaired by standard stitches. For cases with large affected areas, your doctor may take skin from a another site and apply it to the wound in order to promote healing. This is called skin grafting. If the cancer is more advanced, alternate treatment options may be suggested, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.