Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Fortunately, it can be detected by a dermatologist, and in most cases, it can be treated and cured. As part of Skin Cancer Awareness Month in San Deigo, CA, it’s a good idea to understand what the different types of skin cancer are, what it might look like, and how it can be treated. Here’s what you need to know.

Types of Skin Cancer

The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. This type of cancer makes up 80% of all cancer types and is a very slow-growing cancer. That means it’s not as dangerous as other types of skin cancer; however, that doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Basal cell carcinoma may not spread to other systems in the body, but if it’s ignored long enough, it can cause disfigurement.

Squamous cell carcinoma grows faster than basal cell cancer, but like basal cell, it’s not very likely to spread to other body systems. It can also cause disfigurement if it’s not treated in the early stages.

The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma. This is much less common than basal and squamous cell cancers, but it’s fast-growing and can spread to other parts of the body. It can be deadly when it reaches the lymph nodes and other organs, but when it’s detected in the early stages, the survival rate is very high, around 98%.

What to Look For

In addition to having a dermatologist check your skin regularly, you should be doing self-checks often as well. Professionals use the ABCDEs of skin cancer to help describe what to watch for. A stands for asymmetry. When you’re examining moles or other skin markings, the spot should look symmetrical. There should also be a defined border (B) around the mole. If the border is undefined or irregular, it needs to be checked out. C is for color. The color should be consistent throughout the spot and unchanging. D, diameter, means that any growth larger than a pencil eraser may be cancerous. E stands for evolving, which means if the spot changes at all or looks unusual compared to other spots on your body, there may be cause for concern. In general, look for anything new, changing, or unusual.

Close Up of Bare Back

Risk Factors

Fair-skinned people are far more likely to be affected by skin cancer because there’s less pigment to protect them from the sun. Extensive exposure to the sun’s UV rays or tanning beds increases the risk of cellular damage that causes skin cancer. Those with numerous moles or freckles are also at higher risk of developing skin cancer. Family history often plays a role as well. If you have one or more of these risk factors, you should regularly see a dermatologist for skin checks.

Treating Skin Cancer

Skin cancer in the early stages can often be treated by freezing or burning pre-cancerous areas. The cancerous tissue may be cut out as well as a surrounding margin of healthy skin. Mohs surgery is a specialized procedure in which the skin is removed and examined under a microscope layer by layer to carefully remove cancer while minimizing damage to healthy skin. If you have areas of concern, contact Academic & Aesthetic Dermatology Consultants, the experts in dermatology in San Diego, CA. We offer same-day appointments to make sure problems are identified early on.