2 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. It is important to see your dermatologist for yearly skin cancer screenings in order to observe moles and skin changes that may be cancerous. You should see your dermatologist right away if you see anything new or changing on your skin that lasts for longer than 2 weeks and is:
These may be signs of a skin cancer. If caught early, skin cancers are easily removed and have a high cure rate.
The 3 most common skin cancers are:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common type of skin cancer. It most often presents on areas of significant sun exposure, such as the face, neck, chest and hands. It can also appear on areas with little sun exposure. Basal cell carcinomas (BCC’s) may appear as:
Basal cell carcinomas generally grow very slowly, but must be removed by a dermatologist.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinomas are also very common. They also appear on areas of significant sun exposure, such as the scalp, ears, face and hands, but they may also appear elsewhere. Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC’s) may appear as:
Squamous cell carcinomas may grow deeply and spread if they are not removed by a dermatologist.
The most important thing that a person should know about moles is that some moles can develop into a skin cancer called melanoma. This can occur near or inside an existing mole. Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer and people with many moles tend to have an increased risk of skin cancer. About 1 in 70 people in their lifetime will develop a melanoma.
There is a guide to determining if a mole is potentially precancerous on your own. It’s called the ABCDE’s of Melanoma Prevention. You should regularly performed skin self-exams can help you detect these changes. When looking for at your moles, to determine if it may be a melanoma, apply the ABCDE rule.
Other signs of melanoma to look for:
To read more about melanoma, please visit our melanoma skin cancer page.
Who gets skin cancer?
Anyone can develop a skin cancer, though those that have a history of sunburns or significant exposure to sunlight or tanning beds have the greatest risk. People whose close family members have had a skin cancer or those who have had a pre-cancer or skin cancer in the past themselves are also at higher risk. There are also some medical diseases and chemical exposures that can put someone at a higher risk for skin cancer.
What should I do if I see something that might be a skin cancer?
Skin cancers are diagnosed by dermatologist by clinical evaluation. If your dermatologist sees something concerning, they can perform a biopsy to determine whether it is precancerous or malignant. A biopsy is a simple procedure, performed in the office with local anesthesia and minimal discomfort. Your dermatologist sends the lesion, or a portion of it, to the lab to find out exactly what type of growth the lesion is. If it is determined that the lesion is a skin cancer, your dermatologist can review the different treatment options with you, including surgical excision, Mohs surgery, in-office procedures and home medications. Your dermatologist will then determine the best treatment modality for you.
What can I do to prevent skin cancer?
How often should I be checked for skin cancer?
We recommend you have a total body skin exam with a dermatologist once a year to determine if you have any suspicious lesions that may develop into a skin cancer if left untreated. You should make an appointment with your dermatologist right away if you have any concerning lesions found on self-exam.