What is Skin Cancer?
Cancer is the uncontrolled replication of cells. When cancer involves skin cells, a tumor typically forms as a result of the skin’s attempts at regeneration in a controlled manner being disturbed in some manner. There are several recognized forms of skin cancer. These include basal cell carcinoma, melanoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
Examine Skin Changes Right Away
Some of the earliest and most superficial skin cancers are superficial basal cell carcinoma, intraepidermal squamous cell carcinoma (Bowen’s disease), actinic keratoses, and melanoma in situ. In most cases, the earlier a skin cancer is detected and treatment is begun, the better the prognosis. It is important to be aware of the normal appearance of your skin. Your doctor should examine any new spots, rashes, bumps, or discolorations right away.
Risk Factors for Developing Skin Cancer
No one is exempt from developing skin cancer. The most common skin cancer patient will be an older individual with fair skin and a family history of skin cancer. It is important to remember that children, individuals with darker skin, and those with minimal sun exposure histories can also develop skin cancer. Skin cancer has many risk factors:
- HPV/Genital Wart Infection
- Suppressed Immune System
- Organ Transplant Recipients
- Exposure to Ionizing Radiation
- Chemical Exposure (Coal Tar, Arsenic, etc.)
- Chronic Skin Conditions (Lichen Sclerosis, Cutaneous Tuberculosis, Linear Porokeratosis, and Lupus Erythematosus)
- Wounds, Scars, Burns, and Ulcers That Do Not Heal
Genetic Factors That Contribute to Skin Cancer
Several genetic conditions have been strongly associated with the development of skin cancer. Individuals with the following conditions should examine all skin surfaces on a regular basis and become familiar with the signs that indicate possible symptoms of skin cancer. Any new lump, lesion, nodule, or change in an existing lesion should be thoroughly examined by a board-certified dermatologist.
- Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome
- Bazex–Dupré–Christol Syndrome
- Bloom Syndrome
- Brooke-Spiegler Syndrome
- Cowden Syndrome
- Dyskeratosis Congenita
- Epidermolysis Bullosa
- Epidermodysplasia Verruciformis
- Familial atypical Mole-Melanoma Syndrome (FAMM)
- Premature Aging Syndromes (progeria)
- Rothmund-Thomson Syndrome
- Torré-Muir Syndrome
- Xeroderma Pigmentosum
Superficial Skin Cancer Treatment Options
When skin cancer is detected and treated early, the prognosis is usually fairly good. Most skin cancers are surgically removed, along with a portion of the surrounding area of healthy tissue. Excision biopsies and Mohs surgery may be performed on an outpatient basis with local anesthetic, thus eliminating the cancer in an efficient manner. Some other options for superficial, early-stage skin cancers may include:
- Curettage and Diathermy/Cautery
- Topical Creams
- Photodynamic Therapy
- Laser Surgery
Advanced and Metastatic Melanoma Skin Cancer Treatment Options
Advanced skin cancers require more aggressive treatments and systemic therapies, in some cases. Patients with metastatic melanoma, metastatic basal cell carcinoma, and other skin cancers that have moved to areas beyond the skin will likely be referred for additional medical procedures to address the cancer from several angles.
- Targeted Therapies (Vismodegib and Sonidegib)
- Systemic Immunotherapy (Ipilimumab)
- Checkpoint Inhibitors (Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab)
- Topical/Intralesional Immunotherapy (Melanoma Metastases)
- Targeted BRAF Mutation Therapy
- MEK Inhibition
Although early skin cancers can be treated with a high degree of success, advanced cancers may lead to death despite all available treatments. Do not assume that a skin change is harmless or beyond hope. Find out for sure.
Contact Henry D. McKinney Skin Care Center to schedule an appointment. Call: (814) 944-7109.