Skin cancer is a serious health issue in the United States and one in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. It is the most common cancer in the United States and every day more than 8500 persons are diagnosed with skin cancer. Skin cancer is classified as either melanoma which is the least common type and non melanoma which is much more common.
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are collectively refered to as non melanoma skin cancer. Basal cell is the most common form of skin cancer and represents 80% of skin cancers diagnosed in the United States or about 2.8 million cases per year. It is a local non healing red bump or scaly spot of the skin usually on sun exposed areas. Basal cell carcinoma has little or no metastitic potential meaning that it rarely spreads. It is usually treated by biopsy and then surgical excision if the biopsy is positive. Simple excisional surgery is curative 99% of the time.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer and in 2012 there were approximately 700,000 cases of diagnosed in the United States. It often appears as a scaly patch, warty growth or nonhealing ulcer on the skin. It ususally appears on sun exposed areas and squamous cell carcinoma does have a small metastatic potential, that is it can spread to other parts of the body. Incidence of squamous cell carcinoma has increased 200% in the last 30 years and in 2012 approximately 3,900 people in the United States died from squamous cell carcinoma.
Melanoma is the least common but most dangerous type of skin cancer. It accounts for approximately 10,000 deaths per year in the United States. When melanoma is detected before it becomes invasive it is usually easily treated with excisional surgery. The five year survival rate for melanoma which has not spread to the lymph nodes is 98%. People at risk for Melanoma are fair skinned caucasians. It is the most common cancer in patients between 25-29 years old. One american dies of melanoma every hour.
Melanoma presents as a dark spot or changing mole on the skin. Usually black or dark brown but can also look red, pink, purple or nonpigmented. They occur in patients who have had numerous severe surnburns and are more common in persons with a family history for melanoma.
Prevention is the best treatment. Avoid sunburn and intense sunlight at midday. Use a broad spectrum UVA/ UVB sunscreen. Cover up with long sleeves and a hat.
Skin cancer is highly treatable when dectected early so see your dermatologist if you notice any new spot on your skin that is dark, irregular, changing, growing rapidly or bleeding.