We have all heard the warnings: “If you do not apply sunscreen you will develop skin cancer.” What exactly is “skin cancer” and can a little sunburn actually contribute to the development of skin cancer in the future? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors” (Skin Cancer Foundation).
Different types of skin cancers (and pre-cancers)
Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis)
This type of skin cancer (pre-cancer) usually appears on sun-exposed areas. Triggered by the damage of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, these crusty, scaly growths usually appear on a person’s face, scalp, lips, and back of the hand. Moreover, “Treatments destroy the affected area of the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, which usually cures actinic keratosis” (American Cancer Society). Treatment options for Actinic Keratosis include Cryosurgery, Topical Medications, Photodynamic Therapy, Curettage and Electrodessication, Chemical Peeling, Laser Surgery, or a combination of therapies.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
This type of cancer is usually caused by sun exposure (long-term and short-term). These abnormal growths appear in the skin’s basal cells. The growths appear as red patches, scars, and bumps. Treatment options for Basal Cell Carcinoma include Curettage and Electrodessication, Mohs Micrographic Surgery, Excisional Surgery, Radiation, Cryosurgery, Photodynamic Therapy, Laser Surgery, Topical Medications, or Oral Medicine for Advanced Basal Cell Carcinoma.
This type of skin cancer is often referred to as the “most dangerous” of the skin cancers. Melanoma is caused by the exposure to ultraviolet rays, which trigger mutations, prompting the skin cells to reproduce rapidly, causing malignant tumors. Moreover, “Most melanoma cells still make melanin, so melanoma tumors are usually brown or black” (American Cancer Society). Treatment options for Melanoma include surgery.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer usually appears on sun-exposed areas (mostly on individuals 50 years or older with fair complexion). Merkel Cell Carcinoma is 30 times rarer than Melanoma (Skin Cancer Foundation). Treatment options for Merkel Cell Carcinoma include surgical excision, radiation, or chemotherapy.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This type of skin cancer is usually triggered by a lifetime of sun exposure. These growths (often scaly, open sores, warts, or red patches) are abnormal cells surfacing in the squamous cells. Although this cancer type usually appears on sun-exposed areas, it can also appear on all areas of the body. Treatment options for this cancer type include Mohs Micrographic Surgery, Excisional Surgery, Curettage and Electrodessication, Cryosurgery, Radiation, Photodynamic Therapy, Laser Surgery, and Topical Medications.
Note about Atypical Moles (Dysplastic Nevi)
“People who have Atypical Moles are at increased risk of developing melanoma in a mole or elsewhere on the body. The higher the number of these moles someone has, the higher the risk” (Skin Cancer Foundation). If a doctor determines a mole is atypical or if a new mole appears after age forty, a person will need a biopsy. It is crucial to monitor a mole if a doctor determines it is atypical. A doctor may choose to not remove an atypical mole.
Apart from popular belief, surgery is not the only treatment option for skin cancer. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, it is crucial that you explore your treatment options prior to committing to any cancer treatment. “We are experts in providing guidance for the non-surgical treatment of skin cancer. We can suggest less invasive options resulting in minimal to no scarring” (OncoLogic Advisors).
About our service:
OncoLogic Advisors are a group of dedicated, objective oncologists providing navigational assistance to patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. If necessary, we arrange for second or multiple opinions from leading physicians—regionally or nationwide. As objective patient advocates, our approach is revolutionary. We cast a wide net and do the analysis and research, enabling patients to make confident decisions about doctors, treatment centers, and methods of treatment. We review the risks and benefits of each of those treatments—all while providing support and guidance through each decision point—from work-up and beyond. We prepare patients to ask relevant and necessary questions during their doctor visits. Our current healthcare system lacks objective, expert, oncologist advocates for cancer patients. OncoLogic Advisors, a logical, revolutionary service, is changing the paradigm.
Skin Cancer Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2016, from http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/atypical-moles/treatment
Treating actinic keratosis and Bowen disease. (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2016, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-basalandsquamouscell/detailedguide/skin-cancer-basal-and-squamous-cell-treating-actinic-keratosis
What is melanoma skin cancer? (n.d.). Retrieved December 15, 2016, from http://www.cancer.org/cancer/skincancer-melanoma/detailedguide/melanoma-skin-cancer-what-is-melanoma