Get the facts on skin cancer symptoms, signs, treatment, and types (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma).

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year.

Early detection is key to saving lives. Annual complete body skin examinations by the doctors at Affiliated Dermatology can help in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. Affiliated Dermatology also specializes in the treatment of malignant melanoma by using the specialized technique of slow Mohs surgery. Detect and treat cancerous cells and help prevent them from coming back.

Basal and Squamous Cell Cancers

These types of skin cancer are classified as non-melanomas to set them apart from the more serious type of skin cancer, melanoma. They usually start in the basal cells or squamous cells, which is how they get their names. These cells are found at the base of the outer layer of the skin. Most basal and squamous cell cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin, like the face, ears, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. Depending on the type, they can be fast or slow growing, but they rarely spread to other parts of the body. Basal cell or squamous cell cancers can be cured if found and treated early.

Melanoma

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that begins in melanocytes. It is potentially dangerous because it can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. The earlier melanoma is detected and removed, the more likely the treatment will be successful. It can develop from a common mole or a dysplastic nevus and in areas of apparently normal skin. Often the first sign of melanoma is a change in the shape, color, or size of a mole. The “ABCDE” rule describes the features of early melanoma and is a tool used to identify abnormal moles. Treatment often starts with complete removal of the melanoma and normal-looking skin around it. This helps to ensure that the cancer cells are removed.

AMP

Atypical melanocytic proliferations (AMP’s) are neoplasms which are considered to be precursors to melanoma. They begin in melanocytes and show features under the microscope which are very similar to melanoma. Like melanomas, they can develop from a normal mole, a dysplastic nevus, or on normal skin. If an AMP is left untreated, there is a high likelihood that it will develop into a melanoma. Therefore treatment involves surgical excision to insure that the lesion is completely removed.

Dysplastic Nevus

What is a dysplastic nevus? A dysplastic nevus is an unusual mole that may be large and flat and does not have a symmetric round or oval shape. The edge is often indistinct. It may have a mixture of pink, tan, or brown shades. Dysplastic nevi, while not cancerous, have the potential to change and develop into melanoma, a life threatening skin cancer. People who have many dysplastic nevi have a greater chance of developing melanoma.

Who has an increased risk of developing dysplastic nevi?

People with numerous moles, significant sun exposure or a family history of melanoma are at risk.

How do you identify and treat dysplastic nevi?

A dysplastic nevus may occur anywhere on the body, but is usually seen in areas exposed to the sun. A dysplastic nevus may also appear in areas not typically exposed to the sun, such as the scalp. The “ABCDE” rule describes the features of early melanoma and is a tool used to identify abnormal moles. As a preventative measure, an excision may be recommended to remove the mole and the surrounding margin of abnormal cells.