Skin cancer is a broad term that refers to the growth of abnormal skin cells. It is the most common form of cancer. About 5.4 million cases of basal and squamous cell cancer (the most common types) are diagnosed each year. Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, is diagnosed much less often, with just over 76,000 new cases a year. When DNA in the skin cells mutates, these cells can grow out of control. These abnormal skin cells form a mass called a tumor — this is skin cancer.
What Causes of Skin Cancer?
The most common cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation. UV radiation most commonly comes from overexposure to the sun, but tanning beds can also contribute to skin cancer. Although sunburns are less common, sun exposure during the winter months can be just as harmful as exposure during the summer. There are other causes, as well. Repeated x-rays can contribute to skin cancer, and damage to the skin from burns and scars may also be dangerous.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer. The first two, Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma, are the most common. These types of cancer can be malignant, but are unlikely to travel to other parts of the body. What that means is that they can cause disfiguring if left untreated, but aren’t very dangerous. The third type is Melanoma. Melanoma is much less common than the other two main types, but it’s much more dangerous, and can even be fatal.
Skin Cancer Treatment Options
Since different types of cancer behave differently, the type of treatment you receive will depend on which type of cancer you have.
Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma
These two types of skin cancer are less dangerous, but much more common, than Melanoma. Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma tend to remain near the surface of the skin, so treatment normally involves the careful removal of the cancer cells while leaving as much of the healthy skin as possible intact.
In most clinic settings, MOHS surgery is about 87% effective. The reason is that the tissue that’s been removed needs to be sent to a lab to determine if all the cancerous tissue has been removed. This is where our clinic has a distinct advantage over other clinics. Dr. Harrison is a trained pathologist and performs lab work on-site. Because of this, Dr. Harrison’s MOHs treatments are 99% effective.
Melanoma is much less common than Basal or Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Melanoma is much more aggressive than the other types of skin cancer, and has a tendency to attack other parts of the body. This makes it far more dangerous than Basal or Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Dr. Harrison uses a dermatoscope to examine skin irregularities. He’ll determine whether the irregularity is benign or malignant, and follow up with the appropriate treatment.
Melanoma is treated using an excision. Excisions are generally deeper than MOHS treatments, because Melanoma tends to affect tissue more deeply than benign tumors. During the excision, the surgeon will attempt to remove all the cancerous tissue and a thin surrounding layer of healthy tissue. In many cases, this is enough to stop the Melanoma.
Skin Cancer Dermatologist in Sandy, Utah
With more than 20 years’ experience as a professional skin care dermatologist, Dr. Paul E. Harrison is extremely qualified to determine whether your skin is healthy or whether you need treatment. Dr. Harrison and his team treat all skin conditions and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer.
Contact us today with any questions or concerns involving dermatology. Early detection and treatment are critical when it comes to skin cancer.