Skin Cancer: Understanding, Prevention, and Treatment

Skin cancer, which involves the abnormal growth of skin cells, is unfortunately quite common. It’s often caused by damage to the skin cells, usually from too much exposure to sunlight or artificial sources like tanning beds. But it’s important to remember that not all skin cancers are the same, and how we deal with them and recover from them depends on the specific type of skin cancer. Read on to learn more.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three primary types of skin cancer, each named for the type of cells affected:

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, occurring in the basal cells located in the lowest part of the epidermis. It tends to grow slowly and seldom spreads to other parts of the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma begins in squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers. SCC is more likely than BCC to invade fatty tissues beneath the skin or spread to distant parts of the body.


Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer, originating in the melanocytes, or the cells that produce melanin. Melanoma can spread quickly to other organs, making it the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Causes and Risk Factors

The primary cause of skin cancer is DNA damage to skin cells, primarily due to UV radiation exposure. This damage can lead to mutations, or genetic defects, that cause the skin cells to grow uncontrollably, forming a mass of cancer cells. Risk factors include:

  • Excessive sun exposure
  • Use of tanning beds
  • Having fair skin, light hair, and blue or green eyes
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Being over the age of 50
  • Having a large number of moles or abnormal moles

Prevention and Sun Safety

Preventing skin cancer is largely about protecting the skin from excessive UV radiation:

  • Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days.
  • Wear protective clothing: Long-sleeved shirts, pants, and broad-brimmed hats can provide additional protection.
  • Seek shade: Avoid the sun during its peak intensity hours, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Avoid tanning beds: These can increase the risk of skin cancer significantly.

Skin Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Early detection of skin cancer is crucial. Signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • New growths or sores that do not heal
  • Changes in existing moles, such as an increase in size, irregular edges, or color changes
  • Small, smooth, pearly, or waxy bumps
  • Flat, red spots that are rough, dry, or scaly

Early Detection and Self-Examination

Regular self-examination of the skin can help detect skin cancer early when it is most treatable. Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches, or sores that don’t heal. A monthly head-to-toe self-examination is recommended.

Skin Cancer Screening and Biopsy

If you notice any suspicious skin changes, consult a dermatologist immediately. They may perform a biopsy, removing a small sample of skin for laboratory analysis to determine the presence of cancer cells.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the type, size, location, and stage of the cancer, and may include:

  • Surgical removal: The most common treatment for skin cancer, involves the removal of the tumor and some surrounding tissue.
  • Radiation therapy: Uses high-energy rays to target and kill cancer cells.
  • Chemotherapy: Involves the use of drugs to kill cancer cells, sometimes applied as a cream or lotion for cancers limited to the top layer of skin.
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT): Combines laser light with drugs that kill cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy: Boosts the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer.
  • Cryotherapy: This treatment uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy cancer cells.

Choosing a Skin Cancer Specialist

When diagnosed with skin cancer, it’s important to choose a healthcare provider specializing in dermatology or oncology with experience in treating skin cancer. Look for board-certified professionals who are knowledgeable about the latest treatment options.

Contact Us to Learn More

Skin cancer can be an unsettling diagnosis, but with early detection and proper treatment, the prognosis is often very good. If you have concerns about skin cancer or notice any changes in your skin, don’t hesitate to contact us for a consultation. Our team will help you learn more information on skin cancer types, risk factors, prevention, and treatment options. Your health and safety are our top priorities, and we’re here to help you every step of the way.