In the United States there are over 5 million new cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year, which is more than cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and the incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has been steadily increasing over the past 40 years.
Risk Factors of Skin Cancer
The cause of skin cancer is damage to the cellular DNA. The majority of the time this is induced by ultraviolet light, either from the sun or from tanning bed exposure. Those who are fair skinned, have blond or red hair, have a history of excessive sun exposure, and those who have used tanning beds are at increased risk of skin cancer. People whose immune systems are suppressed by medications, cancers, or organ transplantation experience higher rates of skin cancer as well.
What Are The Different Types of Skin Cancer?
These are the three main types of skin cancer in order of prevalence:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma – BCC arises from the cells in the deepest layer (the base) of the epidermis. It is a slow growing cancer that only rarely spreads from the original location to become life threatening. It appears as a pearly white, pink or red growth. It will occasionally resemble a scar and may bleed easily. Many people do not realize they have a BCC until it has been there for quite some time.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma – SCC arises in the cells of the upper epidermis; the layer on the surface of the skin. It is generally slow growing but may metastasize from particular locations, or if it is left to grow for some time. It appears as a scaly patch, open sore, or elevated growth that crusts or bleeds.
- Melanoma – arises from the melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells of the skin. It can appear in normal skin or within a pre-existing mole. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, blue or white. With early detection, melanoma is a highly curable cancer but these tumors can be aggressive once they begin to invade the skin.
How is Skin Cancer Diagnosed?
Early detection is key for all types of skin cancer. At the Center for Dermatology & Laser Surgery, we believe that regular full skin exams, at intervals appropriate to a patient’s age, risk factors and family history, are vital in minimizing the incidence and harmful effects of skin cancer. All our providers are trained in dermoscopy, a method in which we use a tool to magnify and evaluate skin growths. Dermoscopy has quickly become the standard of care for differentiating benign skin growths from those that are potentially cancerous. If you have a concerning growth, please schedule an appointment to have it evaluated by one of our skilled providers.
“I saw Dr. Gasch a few years back because of a skin issue. I first went to the Hillsboro office because that’s where they could fit me in the earliest which was no problem for me. I’m willing to travel for great medical service!” – Josie V.