Maragh Dermatology, Surgery & Vein Institute – Ashburn
45155 Research Place
Ashburn, VA 20147
Maragh Dermatology, Surgery & Vein Institute – Warrenton
419 Holiday Court
Warrenton, VA 20186
Maragh Dermatology, Surgery & Vein Institute – Rockville
14995 Shady Grove Road
Rockville, MD 20850
Skin Cancer: What You Should Know
The largest organ of the human body is the skin. With this in mind, it makes sense that skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers, affecting approximately one million Americans every year.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) appears frequenty on the head, neck, and hands as a small, fleshy bump, nodule, or red patch.
Untreated, the cancer may begin to bleed, crust over, heal, and repeat the cycle. BCC can extend below the skin to the bone and nerves, causing considerable local damage.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is typically located on the face, lips, ears and mouth. This cancer may appear as a bump, or as a red, scaly patch. SCC can develop into large masses and become invasive. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, SCC can metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).
Malignant melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole, or another dark spot in the skin. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on your body to detect changes early.
As with many diseases, BCC culminates from a combination of genetic and environmental factors, with the majority of impact occurring during childhood and adolescence. Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun is a major factor and has a cumulative effect. Other contributing factors include therapeutic radiation, chemical toxins and immunosuppressant medications. All of these factors are also linked with the cause of SCC. Research now indicates, however, that an additional factor may contribute to the disease. The human papillomavirus (HPV), which sometimes is a contributing factor to other cancers, may play a role in the development of squamous cell skin cancers as well.
Radiation from the sun is the main concern linked to the development of melanoma. Factors that increase the risk of developing melanoma include blistering, severe sunburn during childhood or adolescence, fair skin, a large number of moles, a significant number of dysplastic nevi (abnormal moles) or a family and/or personal history of previous melanoma.
Prevention and detection are the best tools for fighting all forms of skin cancer. When exposing the skin to the sun’s rays there is always a risk involved, however there are several ways in which to minimize the risk:
- SPF15 or stronger with repeated applications every two hours
- Protective clothing like sunglasses, shirts, wide-brimmed hats and special SPF clothing
- Seek shade whenever possible
- Avoid exposure during peak hours; 10AM to 2PM
Treatment varies depending on the type of skin cancer contracted, developmental stage, bodily location of the cancer and the patient’s best interests. Possible treatments include excision, laser surgery, Mohs surgery, cryosurgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or biological therapy.
Early detection is the best way to ensure successful treatment. Any change in the skin’s appearance, especially pertaining to existing moles, should be brought to a board certified dermatologist’s attention.