Skin Cancer and Dermatology Specialist in Birmingham, Alabama
Over one million Americans develop skin cancer each year making it the most common type of cancer. Individuals with light or fair skin that sunburn easily are most likely to develop skin cancer with repeated sun exposure. Darker skin tones are less likely, but not exempt from developing skin cancers. Early detection is key.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most common type of skin cancer, although not typically life threatening, is BCC. It appears as a shiny or scaly patch or bump and is pink to red in color. It may bleed and appear to scab over, but it never heals completely. Despite being slow growing, BCC can not only be found on the skin’s surface, but also imbedded in the bone and nerves below if not treated early on. Because of this, it can cause extensive local damage.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common skin cancer is Squamous Cell Carcinoma. It appears as a red scaly patch or bump. SCC can spread and become invasive, developing into large masses. Early treatment is especially important.
When BCC and SCC are detected and treated properly, both types of cancer have a treatment success rate of over 95%. Depending on the size, location, and type of BCC or SCC; there are many different treatment types. One such treatment option, Mohs surgery, is most successful for skin cancers of the head and neck.
The most deadly of all skin cancers is malignant melanoma. It is estimated that 8,000 Americans die from this deadly cancer each year, and over 108,000 Americans will develop this type of skin cancer annually. Melanoma originates in the skin’s melanocytes. Melanocytes are the skin cells that produce melanin, a pigment in the skin that makes skin tan. Melanin is the skin’s protective pigment, and since melanoma cells continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in a wide spectrum of colors. The cancer can be in shades of tan, brown, black and even red or white. Since melanoma can spread, early detection is necessary for a good prognosis. Melanoma may suddenly appear in or near moles and freckles. It is essential to know the location and size of moles and freckles on your body to detect the sometimes subtle changes in your skin’s color and texture that may represent growing cancer. Any change in the appearance of a mole or freckle should be promptly examined by a dermatologist.
Melanoma can be treated if caught in its early stages. The most preventable cause of melanoma is excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn. Individuals with lighter skin tones, atypical moles, a large number of moles or a family history of melanoma are more likely to develop melanoma. However, darker skin tones are not exempt from this type of cancer. Even individuals with darker skin may still develop melanoma on the palms of hands, soles of feet, under nails, the mouth or on the genitalia. Knowing the warning signs of skin cancer can greatly aid in the detection and prompt treatment of melanoma. Watch for changes in the appearance of and number of moles. Also, watch for moles that begin to get larger and spread to surrounding skin. Any oozing, bleeding, scaling or new bumps are also warning signs. Even changes in skin sensation such as itching, tenderness or pain could be signs of melanoma. All skin changes should be brought to the attention of your dermatologist.