The most common form of cancer in the U.S. is skin cancer and if not caught early, it can mean the difference between life and death. Often appearing as unusual growths or spots on the skin, skin cancers can develop into a variety of forms and types. With early diagnosis, skin cancer can be very treatable. At Miller Cosmetic Surgery, our plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr. Scott Miller, can reconstruct areas affected by skin cancer once the lesion has been removed.
If you notice the appearance of a growth or discolored area on your skin, it is imperative that you contact a physician immediately for an evaluation.
- Skin Cancer Prevention
- Types of Skin Cancer
- Other Types of Skin Growths
- Skin Cancer and Skin Growth Treatments
Skin Cancer Prevention
Strong sunscreens and skin care products with high SPF levels (30 or higher) and protection against both UVA and UVB rays, as well as regular visits to the dermatologist, can go a long way in preventing skin cancer. Dr. Miller can give you a number of tips on easy ways to prevent the development of cancerous lesions on the skin. As always, it is vital that you regularly examine your own skin for any irregularities or changes and contact a dermatologist or your primary care physician as quickly as possible if you find anything out of the ordinary.
Skin Cancer Types
A number of factors can cause skin cancer. Exposure to the sun without protection from harmful ultraviolet rays is a very common cause. People who have light-colored eyes and hair, fair skin that freckles easily, a large number of moles, a family history of skin cancer and/or excessive sunburn, and those who have undergone radiation for acne treatments are at a greater risk of developing the condition. Skin cancers and pre-cancerous skin lesions can manifest on the skin in a variety of types, including:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer is the most common; however, it is also typically the least dangerous. Often characterized by slow growth and rarely spreading beyond the area in which it originates, basal cell carcinoma is usually not life threatening. However, this type of skin cancer can cause severe damage to underlying tissue and bone, especially when located near the eye. Basal cell carcinoma often appears as a waxy growth with a central indentation and elevated borders. It can also look like a red, dry, or scaly spot on the skin; a crusted, red lump; a white patch that looks like a scar; and/or a sore that bleeds and doesn’t heal even after a period of weeks.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Body areas exposed to the sun are often the most likely places that squamous cell carcinomas can develop. They are life-threatening skin cancers that require immediate diagnosis and treatment. Typically appearing as a scaly red patch with irregular borders, this type of skin cancer can also look like a wart or an open sore. Squamous cell carcinomas may bleed if bumped or picked at. They often appear on the face, lips, and/or ears. These carcinomas can spread to other body areas and even into the lymph nodes and internal organs.
Melanomas are the most dangerous and life-threatening forms of skin cancer and can occur in any body area. Although melanomas can look like moles, there are some distinctions. Melanomas have irregular borders, and may look uneven in color and wider than six millimeters in diameter. If you notice changes in an existing mole or moles and other skin growths that you do not remember seeing before, it is very important to see a physician immediately. Early detection can often lead to a complete eradication of the cancer.
Other Skin Growths
- Actinic Keratosis – a red or brown rough, scaly patch of skin that has been subjected to sun exposure. This type of growth can sometimes develop into skin cancer.
- Dysplastic Nevi – a skin lesion that is typically an abnormal mole that can frequently progress into a melanoma. Dysplastic Nevi are often asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are larger than the usual mole, and vary in color.
Skin Cancer and Skin Growth Treatments
A number of treatment options are available to eliminate a cancerous or pre-cancerous area of skin:
- Topical medication
- Mohs micrographic surgery
- Excision of the growth or skin area
- Cryosurgery (freezing)
- Laser surgery
- Curettage and electrodissection
- Shave removal
- Chemical peel
Dr. Miller does not remove skin cancer but often “closes” or repairs the defect left behind by skin cancer removal. He is an experienced plastic surgeon who can reconstruct areas of skin cancer with exceptional results.
Please contact Miller Cosmetic Surgery or your family physician if you notice any irregular growths or areas on your skin that may be exhibiting symptoms of skin cancer.