Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. One in five adults will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in his or her life. The risk of skin cancer is increased in individuals with a history of sun exposure, tanning bed use and sun burns, among other risk factors. It is also increased in the setting of a family or personal history of skin cancer. Most skin cancers are not life threatening, but they can invade locally resulting in functional or cosmetic deformity. Prevention and early diagnosis is the best way to limit long term consequences.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer accounting for approximately 80-85% of all skin cancers. While basal cell carcinomas do not typically spread to other parts of the body, they can invade locally, destroying healthy skin. Most basal cell carcinomas appear as pearly pink bumps with prominent blood vessels which crust or bleed spontaneously. They can also appear as pink scaly patches or white scars in an area with no history of injury.
Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most common type of skin cancer accounting for approximately 15% of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinomas grow locally but can rarely metastasize to other parts of the body in the setting of an aggressive histological variant, immunodeficiency, or if left untreated for a prolonged period of time. Squamous cell carcinomas appear as a rough or scaly pink patch or scaly or crusted bump on the skin. These lesions can also bleed spontaneously.
Melanoma is less common but one of the most serious forms of skin cancer. The incidence of melanoma is growing in the United States. Melanoma arises from melanocytes, or the cells of the skin that produce pigment. Melanoma can arise de novo, as a new mole, or more commonly, it can arise from an existing mole. (This is why recognition of a changing mole is especially important.) Melanomas are characterized by a mole with Asymmetry, irregular Borders, dark or irregular Color patterns, large Diameters or Evolving lesions. These are the ABCDE’s of melanoma detection. Melanoma prognosis directly correlates to the depth of the mole, and early diagnosis is essential to prevent invasion. Thin melanomas which are detected and treated have a high cure rate. Unfortunately, advance disease continues to be associated with a poor prognosis.
There are a number of other rare forms of skin cancer. These include dermatofibromasarcoma protuberans, atypical fibroxanthoma, sebaceous adenoma, extramammary Paget’s disease, merkel cell carcinoma and others.
Please call (480) 434-6600 to schedule a consultation if you have questions about your diagnosis.