According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million Americans are diagnosed with non-melanoma skin cancer, and about 73,000 are diagnosed with melanoma each year. Skin cancer risk factors include prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, the overuse of tanning beds, smoking, fair skin, severe sunburns as a child, exposure to chemicals in the workplace, repeated exposure to X-rays, multiple moles and advanced age.
Crozer-Keystone's team of board-certified dermatologists, dermatologic surgeons and Moh's surgeons can help diagnose and treat all types of skin cancer. If your skin cancer should spread to other organs, our highly-skilled, compassionate and disciplinary team of cancer specialists work closely with you through cancer diagnosis, treatment and follow up.
To find a Crozer-Keystone Cancer Specialist who is right for you, please call 1-866-695-HOPE (4673) or use our convenient, online appointment request form.
Types of Skin Cancer
Non-melanoma Skin Cancer
Non-melanoma skin cancers include basal cell and squamous cell. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and the most treatable. Squamous cell carcinoma, if caught and treated early, does not usually spread to other organs. Most basal and squamous cell cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. Depending on the type, they can be fast or slow growing, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma Skin Cancer
Melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer because it is aggressive and spreads quickly to other organs. More than 9,000 of the 13,000 Americans who dies from skin cancer die from melanoma every year.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Early detection of skin cancer is the best way to avoid serious health complications. If you have any of these symptoms, see a dermatologist immediately:
- Any changes on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)
- Scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way a bump or nodule looks
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark
- A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
The American Academy of Dermatology has posted images of the three most common types of skin cancer: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. View the images to help you more accurately detect skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Treatment
If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, the following treatment options are available, depending on the type of cancer and whether or not it has spread to other organs of the body:
Brachytherapy can be used to treat non-melanoma skin cancers where surgery is not the preferred option. Typically, brachytherapy requires implanting sealed radioactive sources, or seeds, into the affected tissue. For skin cancer, a mold is created to hold the seeds just above the skin without requiring implantation.
With this approach, radiation is administered through a series of appointments. The common schedule for this treatment plan includes 10 doses on a schedule of two or three times a week for patient convenience.
Chemotherapy is treatment with drugs to destroy cancer cells and includes:
- Topical Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy given as a cream or lotion placed on the skin to kill cancer cells.
- Systemic Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy taken by pill, or needle injection into a vein or muscle to treat more advanced skin cancer.
Surgery is a common treatment for skin cancer. It is used in most cases when the cancer is still at an early stage. Some types of skin cancer growths can be removed very easily and require only very minor surgery, while others may require a more extensive surgical procedure.
How to Prevent Skin Cancer
Protect Yourself UV Rays
Exposure to the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer. Your risk of getting skin cancer can be reduced or eliminated if you follow these precautions:
- Apply Sunscreen: Select a sunscreen with broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply a new layer every two hours. Since UV rays can pass through clouds, wear sunscreen on hazy days as well.
- Wear Protective Clothing: Choose a tightly woven fabric, long sleeved shirt, long pants, or long skirts to cover and protect the skin. You should consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat as well.
- Wear Sunglasses: Select sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection.
- Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanning beds, which emit UVA radiation, are known to significantly increase melanoma risk in those who regularly use them. That golden glow isn’t worth cancer.
- Seek Shade: Limit your exposure to the sun by seeking out shade and/or shelter when necessary. This is most important when the sun is the strongest, which is between ten a.m. and four p.m.
- Take Extra Caution with Children: Children are more likely to experience sunburns, and one or two bad ones before age 18 can significantly increase his/her risk of skin cancer.
Get Regular Skin Cancer Screenings
It’s important to regularly inspect your skin for new spots or changes to existing moles and alert your doctor if you see anything you think may be abnormal. Ideally, you should give your skin a once over every month in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Get familiar with any blemishes, freckles, moles and other marks on your skin – this will help you determine if anything looks different in the future.
But self-exams don’t replace a skin cancer screening by your doctor – your primary care physician and dermatologist are trained to carefully check your skin and pinpoint changes that could indicate the presence of skin cancer.
Regular skin cancer screenings are especially important for people who have a higher risk of skin cancer, including people who’ve had skin cancer before, people with reduced immunity and people with a strong family history of skin cancer.