Warmuth Institute of Dermatology is now a part of Schweiger Dermatology Group
hello world!

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells, and anyone can get skin cancer, no matter their skin color. You can get skin cancer even if you never sunburn.

The Layers of Skin

Your skin has several layers but the two main layers are the epidermis (top or outer layer) and the dermis (lower or inner layer). Skin cancer begins in the epidermis, which is made up of three kinds of cells:

  • Squamous Cells: These are thin flat cells that form the top layer of the epidermis.
  • Basal Cells: These cells are round cells found under the squamous cells.
  • Melanocytes: These cells are found in the lower part of the epidermis. Melanocytes make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color.

Types of Skin Cancer

The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, also known as non-melanoma skin cancers, are the most common forms of skin cancer. They arise within the top layer of skin and frequently appear on any sun-exposed area of the body, including the face, ears, bald scalp, and neck. While these skin cancers may grow slowly, if left untreated, they can grow deep and spread to the nearest lymph nodes, through the blood to bones, the lungs, and other parts of the skin.

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, as it can spread to lymph nodes and most internal organs. It is easier to cure when found in its early stages before it spreads to the dermis.

Overall, all skin cancers are highly curable when detected and treated in their early stages.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It most often develops in people who have fair skin but can also develop in people with skin of color. It usually develops after years of frequent sun exposure or indoor tanning.

Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma usually looks like

  • A flesh-colored round growth
  • A pearl-like bump
  • A pinkish patch of skin

These signs of basal cell carcinoma usually appear on the head, neck, arms, chest, abdomen, and legs.

With early diagnosis, basal cell carcinoma is treatable. If you fail to get treatment for basal cell carcinoma, cancer can grow deep and penetrate the nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It most often develops in people who are fair skin but can also develop in people with skin of color.

Signs of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma usually looks like

  • A red firm bump
  • A scaly patch
  • A sore that heals and then reopens

These signs of squamous cell carcinoma usually tend to form on skin that gets frequent sun exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, and back.

Squamous cell carcinoma can also grow from precancerous skin growths called actinic keratoses (AKs). AKs are dry, scaly patches or spots that commonly affect people who have fair skin. They usually appear on the head, neck, hand, and forearms. AKs aren’t skin cancer, but they can grow into squamous cell carcinoma if left untreated. Blue light treatment is effective in treating AKs.

With early diagnosis, squamous cell carcinoma is treatable. If you fail to get treatment for squamous cell carcinoma, cancer can grow deep and spread to other areas of the body over time.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer because it can spread to lymph nodes and most internal organs. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body but most often appears on the upper back, torso, lower legs, head, and neck.

Signs of Melanoma

Melanoma can develop in a mole or suddenly appear as a new dark spot on the skin.

The ABCDEs of Melanoma

Knowing the ABCDEs of Melanoma can help you detect melanoma during self-examination.

A is for Symmetry. One half of the spot is unlike the other half.
B is for Border. The spot has an irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
C is for Color. The spot has varying colors from one area to the next, such as shades of tan, brown, or black, or areas of white, red, or blue.
D is for Diameter. Melanomas are usually greater than 6 millimeters or about the size of a pencil eraser; however, they can be smaller when diagnosed.
E is for Evolving. The spot looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

Early diagnosis and treatment are critical as melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Risk Factors

You may be more at risk for developing skin cancer if

  • You have fair skin.
  • You seldom use sunscreen or wear sun-protective clothing.
  • You use tanning beds.
  • You have precancerous growths (actinic keratoses, AKs). Some AKs progress, turning into squamous cell carcinoma.
  • You have an HPV infection of the mouth, genitals, or anus.

Prevalence of Skin Cancer In the US

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime.

Research estimates show that:

  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC), including basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), affects more than 3 million Americans a year; and
  • More than 1 million Americans are living with melanoma. About half of melanomas are self-detected.

Survival Rates

  • Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are highly treatable if detected early and treated properly.
  • The 5-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 92 percent.
  • The five-year survival rate for melanoma that spreads to nearby lymph nodes is 65 percent. The five-year survival rate for melanoma that spreads to distant lymph nodes and other organs is 25 percent.

Mortality Rates

  • The vast majority of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.
  • Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day.

Skin Cancer Detection

The ADA encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams to check for signs of skin cancer. Check out the ADA’s "How To Spot Skin Cancer" infographic to check your skin regularly.

When To See A Dermatologist

You should see Dr. Warmuth, a board-certified dermatologist, at Warmuth Institute of Dermatology (a part of Schweiger Dermatology Group) if you notice a spot on your skin that:

  • Differs from the others
  • Changes
  • Itches
  • Bleeds

Call (856) 358-1500 to schedule an appointment today.

Diagnosing Skin Cancer

During your consultation, Dr. Warmuth will examine your skin for any suspicious-looking spots. If she detects any spots that may look like skin cancer, she’ll perform a skin biopsy to remove the spot or part of it to send to the lab for evaluation.

At the lab, the tissue sample will be looked at under a microscope and checked for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, the type will be indicated in the biopsy report.

If melanoma cells are seen, the biopsy report will indicate the type of melanoma, how deep the melanoma tumor has grown into the skin, and how quickly the melanoma cells are growing and dividing. When possible, the stage of disease will also be indicated.

If no cancer cells were found, the biopsy report would indicate that as well.

Treatment for Skin Cancer

If your lab report indicates you have skin cancer, Dr. Warmuth will recommend a treatment option based on the type of skin cancer you have, where it is located, and how deeply cancer has grown.

There are both nonsurgical and surgical treatment options available for skin cancer, some of which include:

Nonsurgical Treatment Options for Skin Cancer

Freezing or Cryotherapy. Cryotherapy can be performed during an in-office visit. It involves spraying an extremely cold substance (e.g., liquid nitrogen) on the skin cancer to destroy cancer cells.

Light Therapy or Photodynamic Therapy (PDT). PDT is a two-part process. First, a solution that makes your skin more sensitive to light is applied to the cancer and a bit of skin around it. You’ll sit with this solution on your skin for one to several hours. Second, your skin is treated with a blue or red light to kill the cancerous cells. This treatment is effective in treating early basal cell carcinoma, but repeated treatments may be necessary.

Medications. Medications can be applied to the skin at home as prescribed either as an initial treatment (applied to the skin cancer to help reduce the size of the cancerous tumor) or as a secondary treatment (applied after another treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells). Two drugs approved by the FDA for such treatment include Imiquimod and 5-FU.

Radiation Therapy. For radiation treatments, you’ll need to go to a hospital or treatment center for several treatments given over a period of several weeks. This may be the only treatment recommended, or it could be a secondary treatment to kill any remaining cancer cells. Radiation treatment is usually only recommended for patients 60 years or older.

Surgical Treatment Options for Skin Cancer

Surgical Removal. Surgical removal of skin cancer can be done in the office while you remain awake. A topical anesthetic is used to numb the area. There are three types of surgical removal that are used to treat skin cancer.

  • Excision. The skin cancer and the surrounding area of normal skin are removed. Removing some normal skin is necessary to ensure that all stray cancer cells are removed. Dr. Warmuth will then look at this tissue under a high-powered microscope to ensure that the area of margin removed is free from cancer cells. If any normal-looking skin is found to have cancer cells, you will be referred to have more treatment, MOHs surgery.
  • MOHs Micrographic Surgery. MOHs surgery allows for the selective removal of tumors with the preservation of as much of the surrounding normal tissue as possible. It offers the highest chance for complete removal of cancer while sparing normal tissue because it precisely maps the location of cancer. The cure rate for new cancers with the MOHs procedure can exceed 97 percent.
  • Curettage and Electrodessication. Skin cancer is removed from your skin using a technique called curetting. Then electrodesiccation is used to destroy any remaining cancer cells with heat. This procedure is not performed in areas of heavy hair growth, such as the scalp, a man’s beard area, or an armpit.

For melanoma that has grown deeper into the skin or spreads, Dr. Warmuth will recommend additional treatments after surgery to eradicate any remaining cancer cells.

Skin Cancer Prevention

For skin cancer prevention, the ADA recommends the following:

  • Stay out of indoor tanning beds
  • Protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by seeking shade
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Wear a wide brim hat
  • Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, especially when outdoors or when swimming or sweating
  • Perform regular skin self-exams
  • Consider using a self-tanning product

Skin Cancer Treatment in Elmer, NJ

If you suspect you may have a suspicious spot or mole that may be skin cancer, call Warmuth Institute of Dermatology (a part of Schweiger Dermatology Group) at (856) 358-1500 to schedule an appointment for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Skin Cancer FAQs

What does skin cancer look like?

Skin cancer can appear on the body in many different ways, including:

  • A changing mole or mole that looks different from your others
  • A dome-shaped growth
  • A scaly patch
  • A non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns
  • A brown or black streak under a nail

How do you know if a spot is skin cancer?

The ADA encourages everyone to perform regular skin self-exams to check for signs of skin cancer. Check out the ADA's "How To Spot Skin Cancer" infographic to check your skin regularly.

Can skin cancer kill you?

Malignant melanomas are highly aggressive cancers that can spread to other parts of the body. If not treated early, these cancers may be fatal.

How quickly does skin cancer grow?

Melanoma can grow quickly and can become life-threatening within six weeks after detection. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential.

Does skin cancer go away on its own?

No, skin cancer doesn’t go away on its own. You will need treatment to remove the cancerous cells from your skin. The longer you delay treatment, the cancer cells can grow deeper, injuring nerves, blood vessels, and anything else in its path. As the cancer cells pile up, a large tumor can form. In the case of melanoma, cancer can spread to your lymph nodes and most internal organs. Melanoma is the deadliest of skin cancers.

What is the outlook for someone who has had skin cancer?

Skin cancer is curable when diagnosed and treated early. It is important to note, however, that skin cancer can return, and you are at a higher risk of developing another skin cancer.

Is it essential to have yearly check-ups after having skin cancer?

Yes, it is highly recommended that you have 6-month check-ups after having skin cancer for the first two years after detection of skin cancer, then yearly, since once you have had it you are at a higher risk of developing another skin cancer.

2021 All Rights Reserved |
Call
Text
Email
Map