There are three basic forms of skin cancer. They are all caused or may be caused in some part by or in whole by sun exposure. However, some cancers do appear in areas which do not receive sun. These types of cancers may be developed from inherited mutations or exposure to other carcinogens.
The first form of skin cancer or the least aggressive form is basal cell carcinoma. This is essentially a tumor that begins at the basal layer of the skin. It is a small curly capsule which can sometimes occur with an ulcer in the center if it outgrows its blood supply. This form is the most common skin cancer. It is four times more common than the next cancer, which is squamous cancer. The basal cell cancer normally stays localized in one area. It grows slowly and is locally destructive. And, it does not spread throughout the body or metastasize often.
The next more aggressive skin cancer is the squamous cell cancer. This tumor originates from the middle layer of the epidermis called the squamous layer (or spinous layer). It may start as a pre-cancer or actinic keratosis, which are red, scaly areas which come and go and are often treated in Dr. Darst’s dermatology office by freezing with liquid nitrogen. However, when the pre-cancer develops into a cancer, more aggressive therapy is administered. If it is very thin, it may be treated with rub-on medication such as Aldara or 5-fluorouracil. If it is invasive, then it will require a surgical excision for treatment. Squamous cell cancer is red and ‘angry’ looking, and often has a white scale on top.
Lastly but most importantly, the most aggressive form of skin cancer is known as melanoma. This is the cancerous mole. It can occur anywhere on the body including the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. Hence, a full body examination is critically important at least yearly for patients over the age of 40. In addition, patients should examine themselves monthly with the help of their partner or using a hand held mirror to make sure that no new moles have occurred since their last visit. There are several features of ‘funny’ looking moles or typical moles which make dermatologists like Dr. Darst suspicious for melanoma. In such moles, there is asymmetry, where one side of the mole does not look like the other. Border irregularity is present where the border may be jagged or irregular. Colors of the moles can be red, white, blue, black, two shades of brown, and so on.
Suffering from any type of skin cancer is a very serious issue. Diagnosing the disease as early as possible is the key to complete healing and a rapid recovery. Call Dr. Darst today and schedule an appointment to be free from the worry of skin cancer!
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