Of all the cancers, skin cancer is by far the most common type. Although, there are many forms of skin cancer some of which are quite rare, there are 3 that account for 99% of skin cancers—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.
The most common type of skin cancer and the most common type of cancer overall is basal cell carcinoma. It is due to sun exposure, particularly the shorter wavelength that is also the sunburn spectrum and is blocked with the use of sunscreen. There are about 1,000,000 people in the United States with this cancer and it appears in a variety of forms, but mostly as a sore that does not heal or an area of the skin that begins to bleed. It is almost exclusively located in sun exposed areas, especially the face and hands.
Early Detection of Skin Cancer
Rarely does it metastasize—go to distant parts of the body, but it is also known as a rodent ulcer, because it eats the skin away in the area. This can be especially troublesome near the eye or in a crease in the face, e.g. near the nose. Usually treatment is curative and if caught early will usually not leave a bad scar. If not caught early, it may require what is known as Moh’s surgery which can be very destructive and require reconstruction. It is so easy to prevent by using a sunscreen with SPF 15-30 on a daily basis.
Less common is squamous cell carcinoma, which arises in an area of chronically damaged skin. It can arise in a leg ulcer of long-standing duration, in an area of chronic dermatitis and the most virulent area is the lip or mouth where it comes from use of tobacco. Treatment is surgical or irradiation and usually turns out well unless the lesion is on the lip, whereas it can be deadly.
The most virulent of all skin cancers and one of the worst of all is malignant melanoma. There are about 55,000 cases a year and has a number of factors that contribute to its development. Sunburns in childhood seem to increase the chance of having one and the use of tanning beds definitely increases the chance of having one. Treatment is surgical excision with a wide margin. No other treatment is effective and if not caught in the early stage will lead to death of the patient.
As a reminder, I offer free skin cancer screening here in the office. The only requirement is that you make an appointment, so call 615 441 5227 to schedule. This could save your life.
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