Lesions and Skin Cancer
About Lesions and Skin Cancer
Our board-certified dermatologists are highly qualified to diagnose and treat skin diseases and skin cancers including skin surgery where necessary. We recommend full-body exams to screen for potentially serious skin cancers including Melanoma and other more common and some rare cancers. One of the specialty treatments we offer is fully ablative laser resurfacing to remove most of the precancerous lesions on the face in a single comprehensive treatment to help prevent the occurrence of future skin cancers in severely sun-damaged skin.
At the Gateway Aesthetic Institute, we also treat common conditions such as acne, including acne scars that may be caused by severe acne. Advanced methods for treatment of other conditions including scars, common skin spots, mole removal and a wide variety of other services is available.
Warning Signs and Prevention
Few words conjure up more images of concern and desperation than that of cancer—and rightly so. But did you realize that of the many forms of human cancer, skin cancer is the most common? The National Cancer Institute notes that skin cancers will affect nearly 1 million Americans this year—and the number of new cases is increasing. Equally concerning is the fact that nearly half of all Americans who live to the age of 65 will develop skin cancer at least once.
Despite the gloomy numbers, there is hope. Unlike cancers that grow internally, skin cancer has the greatest potential for early detection and treatment—if we are vigilant to its warning signs.
Types of Skin Cancer
To understand what to look for, one should first understand the basic skin cancer types. They fall into three groups: precancers, nonmelanomas, and malignant melanoma.
When dermatologists diagnose precancerous lesions, they are most likely referring to actinic keratosis (AK), also known as solar keratosis. While AK is not officially cancerous, it has the potential to develop into more serious forms of skin cancer. AK is usually found in the outer layer of the skin, most commonly on the face, lips, ears, neck and scalp. It may cause the skin to become scaly, rough, red or discolored, and may be tender to the touch. Treatment options vary and are best discussed with one of our board-certified dermatologists. Common treatments for AK include freezing with liquid nitrogen, chemical peels, topical chemotherapy creams and laser resurfacing therapy.
The most common form of skin cancer, and thankfully the least dangerous, is basal cell carcinoma. It accounts for more than 90% of all skin cancer in the U.S. Basal cell carcinoma grows slowly and rarely spreads beyond its original location. While this cancer is seldom lifethreatening, if left untreated, it can grow into underlying tissue and cause serious damage. Warning signs for basal cell carcinoma may include an open sore that doesn’t heal, a growth with an elevated border and central indentation, or a scar-like bump on the sun-exposed skin of the head, neck, chest, arms or legs. The most common treatment for this type of cancer is surgical excision. Up a notch on the danger pole, above basal cell carcinoma, is the next most common kind of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma. Like basal cell carcinoma, this cancer is generally not considered a threat to life. However, unlike its cousin above, squamous cell carcinoma, if not treated, may potentially spread to other body organs (including lymph nodes) and ultimately cause death. This type of cancer appears frequently as a red, scaling, thickened patch on the arms, legs, lips, face or ears. Ulceration and bleeding may also occur. Treatments include Mohs micrographically controlled surgery, surgical excision, lasers, or radiation therapy.
The most dangerous form of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. Thankfully it is also the least common, though incidences are rapidly increasing. If detected early, malignant melanoma can be completely cured. If it is not treated quickly, however, it will spread throughout the body’s organs and ultimately be fatal. While anyone can get melanoma, fair-skinned people are at greater risk. It can appear anywhere on the skin, but is most common on the backs of men and on the legs of women. Melanoma almost always begins on the skin’s surface, where it’s easily treated (generally via surgical removal). If given time to grow, it will move into the blood and lymphatic vessels, making full recovery difficult. Melanoma’s warning signs include spots or moles that change in size, color or feel (often with an irregular border). The cancer may also appear as a small lesion containing red, white, blue or black spots; or shiny, firm, dome-shaped bumps (located anywhere on your body). If you are unsure about a spot or mole, it’s always best to see your doctor. If you need a specialist, the board-certified dermatologists at the Gateway Aesthetic Institute have over 30 years of experience in treating all dermatology needs, including skin cancer.
Several factors (many beyond our control) may increase the risk of getting skin cancer. These include genetic predisposition, the altitude at which we live, and age. That said, our risk may substantially decrease by doing the following: • Reduce exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, (especially important for children) • Avoid sunburns and sun exposure during the day (usually from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), when the sun is highest in the sky • Wear protective clothing (long sleeves and hats) when outdoors • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB radiation • Reapply sun block every 2 hours and after swimming • Check your skin regularly and report any changes to your doctor Like everything in life, our skin’s health offers no guarantees. That said, if we remain aware, proactive, and diligent with our skin, we stand a much better chance of living a happy, healthy, and cancer-free lives.