Skin Cancers

Skin cancer affects one in five Americans, and more than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. It is recommended that a person see a dermatologist once a year for a routine skin examination (a person with a history of skin cancer may need to be seen more frequently.) Also, it is important to perform monthly self-examinations of your skin. If anything on the skin changes, grows, or bleeds, you should see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

The 3 most common types of skin cancer are: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Malignant Melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and appears frequently on the head, neck, and hands as a small, fleshy bump, nodule or red patch. Other parts of the body may be affected as well. Basal cell carcinomas are frequently found in fair-skinned people and rarely occur in dark skin. They usually do not grow quickly. It can take many months or years for one to grow to a diameter of one-half inch. Untreated, the cancer often will begin to bleed, crust over, heal, and repeat the cycle. It can extend below the skin to the bone and nerves, causing considerable local damage. It can rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer; it is primarily found in fair-skinned people and rarely in darkskinned individuals. Typically located on the rim of the ear, face, lips and mouth, this cancer may appear as a bump, or as a red, scaly patch. SCC can develop into large masses and become invasive. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, this form of cancer has a greater potential to metastasize (spread to other parts of the body); therefore, it is important to get early treatment.

When found early and treated properly, the cure rate for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can be over 95 percent.

Malignant Melanoma: malignant melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Every year, an estimated 8,000 Americans will die from melanoma; it is projected that greater than 108,000 Americans will develop melanoma annually. It begins in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the dark protective pigment called melanin which makes the skin tan. Since melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in mixed shades of tan, brown and black, although it can also be red or white. Melanoma can metastasize (spread), making early detection and treatment essential.

Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole, or another dark spot in the skin. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on the body to detect changes early. Any changing mole must be examined by a dermatologist. Early melanoma can be removed while still in the curable stage.

Warning signs of melanoma include:


If a skin biopsy reveals cancer, Dr. Hearth may utilize one of many medical treatments or surgical procedures as treatment, depending upon the type of cancer, its location, and the needs of the individual. Such treatments include: