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Skin Cancer

Exces­sive expo­sure to sun along with char­ac­ter­is­tics such as fair com­plex­ion can make one sus­cep­ti­ble to skin can­cer. Skin Can­cer is the most com­mon form of all can­cers Accord­ing to the Skin Can­cer Foun­da­tion, more than 3.5 mil­lion skin can­cers in over 2 mil­lion peo­ple are diag­nosed annually.

Some skin can­cers can be quite aggres­sive and chal­leng­ing to treat. Because ear­ly detec­tion is crit­i­cal, der­ma­tol­ogy patients are reg­u­lar­ly exam­ined to iden­ti­ty sus­pi­cious skin con­di­tions. Typ­i­cal­ly they will exam­ine the areas that are exposed to the sun includ­ing the face, hands, arms and neck. When a skin can­cer has been detect­ed, our der­ma­tol­o­gists offer the most advanced treat­ment options. 

Types of Skin Cancer

The three most com­mon types of skin can­cer are basal cell car­ci­no­ma (the most com­mon and least dan­ger­ous), squa­mous cell car­ci­no­ma and melanoma (the least com­mon but most dan­ger­ous type). These names come from the name of the type of cell that becomes can­cer­ous, a basal cell, a squa­mous cell, or a melanocyte.

Can­cer is a very fright­en­ing word that is used to describe many very dif­fer­ent dis­eases with many very dif­fer­ent prog­noses. Most cells that make up the body divide and repro­duce in an order­ly man­ner at a set slow pace. This allows the body to grow, replace worn-out tis­sue and repair injuries. If one of these cells is injured in some way (for exam­ple, by the sun) and becomes can­cer­ous, it begins to repli­cate and divide much more quick­ly. With the cell divid­ing more rapid­ly, the body is unable to process all of the new cells and a mass or ball of these cells is formed. This mass of new cells is called a tumor.

In some tumors, the cells may break away from the mass, trav­el in the blood or lym­phat­ic stream and set up in anoth­er part of the body and con­tin­ue grow­ing and invad­ing the tis­sue. This process is called metas­ta­siz­ing and is asso­ci­at­ed with the more dan­ger­ous forms of can­cer. This almost nev­er occurs in basal cell car­ci­no­mas and is rare in squa­mous cell car­ci­no­mas that are small­er than two cen­time­ters in width. Although not com­mon with today’s advanced diag­nos­tic and ther­a­peu­tic meth­ods, melanoma is most like­ly to metas­ta­size and spread to oth­er parts of the body such as the lungs, liv­er and bones.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell car­ci­no­ma (BCC) is a skin can­cer that aris­es from basal cells. Basal cells are found in the low­er lay­ers of the skin. The prog­no­sis for patients with BCC is excel­lent, but if the lesion is left untreat­ed, it can cause sig­nif­i­cant dis­ease pro­gres­sion. BCC occurs pri­mar­i­ly on the face, head, scalp, neck, and hands.

Basal Cell Car­ci­no­ma can include the fol­low­ing characteristics:

  • Waxy appear­ance
  • Pearly appear­ance
  • Ero­sion or ulcer­a­tion — often in the cen­ter with pigmentation
  • Bleed­ing — espe­cial­ly when traumatized
  • Ooz­ing or crust­ed areas — espe­cial­ly in large BCCs
  • Rolled (raised) border
  • Translu­cen­cy
  • Slow grow­ing: 0.5 cm in 1 – 2 years

Patients with a his­to­ry of skin can­cer should have reg­u­lar full body skin exams per­formed by their Der­ma­tol­o­gist, and all patients should per­form month­ly self examinations.

Relat­ed Health Topics:

Squa­mous Cell Carcinoma

Squa­mous Cell Car­ci­no­ma is the sec­ond most com­mon skin can­cer. It aris­es from the super­fi­cial lay­ers of the skin and is direct­ly relat­ed to cumu­la­tive sun expo­sure. It often presents as a rough patch that bleeds, or as a rapid­ly grow­ing red bump that bleeds or is ten­der. It may arise from an actinic ker­ato­sis. There is a pos­i­tive risk of metas­ta­sis most­ly in high risk patients (immun­od­e­fi­cient) and treat­ment for a squa­mous cell car­ci­no­ma is pri­mar­i­ly surgical.

    Malig­nant Melanoma

    Melanoma is a skin can­cer of the melanocytes which are the pig­ment pro­duc­ing cells of the skin.Melanoma is the most dan­ger­ous form of skin can­cer, but if rec­og­nized and treat­ed ear­ly it is almost always cur­able. The major­i­ty of melanomas are black or brown but they can also be skin col­ored, pink, red or pur­ple. Melanoma is caused main­ly by intense occa­sion­al UV expo­sure and sun­burns. The ABCDE warn­ing signs of melanoma are growths that are:

    • A — asymmetrical
    • B — bor­ders — uneven
    • C- col­or — hav­ing a vari­ety of col­or in the growth
    • D — diam­e­ter — usu­al­ly larg­er than the size of an eras­er on a pencil
    • E — evolv­ing — chang­ing in size, shape, col­or or ele­va­tion. Also with new symp­toms such as bleed­ing, itch­ing or crusting

    Relat­ed Health Topics:

    His­tol­ogy Lab

    His­tol­ogy is the study of organ­ic tis­sues. At the DMG His­tol­ogy lab, staff are able to review the struc­ture and tis­sue of sam­ples to deter­mine if cells are can­cer­ous or con­tain oth­er diseases.

    The Der­ma­tol­ogy His­tol­ogy Lab in Naperville has also been accred­it­ed by the Col­lege of Amer­i­can Pathol­o­gists (CAP) which is a huge achieve­ment that speaks to the qual­i­ty pro­vid­ed to patients need­ing his­tol­ogy testing.Histology is the study of organ­ic tissues.