Skin cancer unfortunately holds the distinction as the world’s most common cancer. More people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States each year than all other cancers combined. At least 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70 with more than 9,500 people diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Development of skin cancer can be attributed to the following risks: indoor tanning, sunburns, skin type, unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB rays, genetics, atypical moles, organ transplant and those with naturally red hair.
Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin. These mutations that cause skin cell growth form a mass of cancer cells. If these mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly, does skin cancer spread quickly? Yes and no. The rate of spreading is dependent upon the type of skin cancer. Skin cancer presents as 3 major types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer but it also grows slowly, is the most curable and causes minimal damage when diagnosed and treated early. Growth rates vary, with some basal cell carcinomas growing as much as 1 centimeter in a year. Although basal cell carcinoma can develop into other types of cancer, such as squamous cell carcinoma, it is very rare that it spreads (metastasizes) to nearby lymph nodes or other areas of the body. Squamous cell carcinoma develops in the squamous cells found in the middle and outer layers of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, and unlike basal cell carcinoma, it can spread to lymph nodes and even to internal organs. When it does spread, it spreads slowly. Left untreated, it can destroy nearby healthy tissue but is not typically life-threatening. While less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma is a serious and dangerous form of skin cancer that can spread quickly to other organs if not treated in the early stage. The 4 main types of melanomas are superficial spreading melanoma, lentigo melanoma, acral lentiginous melanoma and nodular melanoma. Doctors use what is called a staging process for diagnosing, assessing and treating melanomas. These are classified by the extent of the original tumor in its thickness and ulceration meaning the breakdown of skin on top of the melanoma, whether it has spread to nearby lymph nodes, and if has spread or metastasized to distant lymph nodes, skin areas or organs. Because the levels of classification can be complex, it is necessary to visit a dermatologist with any changes to the skin and to schedule routine skin screenings.
Prevention of skin cancer begins with ways to decrease risk that include daily use of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF, wearing sun protective clothing, staying out of the sun whenever possible, protective window films in cars and homes, healthy diets, monthly self-exams and annual skin exams with a dermatologist.
To book your skin examination, call THE CENTER for Advanced Dermatology at 602-867-7546 or visit online at WEBSITE.