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Skin Cancer

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Skin Cancer

Find Reliable Skins Treatment at Dermatology Specialists of Charlotte

abnormal, uncontrolled growth

Skin Cancer

Skin cancer refers to the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells. The most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. A rarer but more dangerous skin cancer is melanoma, the leading cause of death from skin disease. Risk factors for developing skin cancer include pale skin, family history of melanoma, history of blistering sunburns during childhood, freckling and regular sun exposure. Skin cancers vary in shape, color, size and texture, so any new, changed or otherwise suspicious growths or rashes should be examined immediately by a physician. Early intervention is essential to preventing the cancer from spreading.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

BCC arises from the basal cells of the epidermis. They grow out of control leading to a non-healing skin lesion that can eventually ulcerate causing local destruction. It rarely spreads beyond the skin, but can with a long period of time. Treatment is necessary to stop this local invasion and possible future spread.

Actinic Keratosis (AK) or Precancers of SCC

Precancers develop when the squamous cells of the skin become atypical and begin to overgrow their boundaries. AKs are defined as involving only a few layers of the epidermis with this atypical growth. This can progress into a squamous cell skin cancer. Treatment is necessary to remove the base of atypical cells to prevent progression to cancer. More info on Photodynamic Therapy for treatment of Actinic Keratoses.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

SCC arises from the squamous cells of the skin. If the atypical cells are confined to the epidermis, a squamous cell in situ is present. Local treatments may be curative. If the atypical cells extend into the dermis, an invasive SCC is present. This is a skin cancer that locally grows, but can spread to lymph nodes and internally if not treated.


Melanoma is a skin cancer of the melanocytes or pigment producing cells of the skin. A melanoma has cells that grow out of control, eventually going to your lymph nodes and then throughout your body. It is fatal if not caught early. Melanoma grows over a relatively short period of time.

Look for changes over a 1-2 month period. Look for asymmetry, an irregular border, color changes, particularly black, and growth in size. A melanoma can arise in moles or on any portion of the skin. If caught early, the melanoma can be excised alone with an excellent prognosis. If the melanoma is > 1mm in depth, an evaluation of your lymph nodes is recommended to determine the likelihood of spread.

Referral to an oncologist may be necessary if spread is suspected. Early detection is key. You must check your skin monthly for any changes and notify us to evaluate any suspicious lesions.

Dysplastic Nevi (DN)

These are moles with some atypical features within them. This is not a melanoma. The presence of DN is considered a risk factor for melanoma. You will need closer monitoring for melanoma. Careful surveillance of skin is the best way to identify an early melanoma, as early detection and removal is often curative. You should check your skin monthly for any changes and notify our office of any suspicious changes. Your skin should be examined by the dermatologist every 6 months.

Moles & Birthmarks

Known as nevi (singular “nevus”), moles and other birthmarks are benign pigmented spots or patches of skin that range in color from tan, brown and black (moles) to red, pink or purple (blood vessel nevi). Though most birthmarks are harmless, they may develop into cancer. Moles exhibiting any of the following warning signs should be examined by a dermatologist immediately:

  • Larger than six millimeters.
  • Itches or bleeds.
  • Rapidly changes in color, size or shape.
  • Multiple colors.
  • Is located where it can’t be easily monitored, such as on the scalp.

Monthly self skin checks and yearly checks with your dermatologist can monitor for the above worrisome changes. Any worrisome moles need to be evaluated quickly.

Look for the ABCDEs of Melanoma detection…

Skin Cancer Facts

Skin Cancer Facts You are at increased risk for Melanoma and Skin Cancer if you have any of the following:

  • Blonde or red hair, fair complexion, light eyes
  • Tendency to burn easily in the sun
  • Presence of freckles or atypical moles
  • Any outdoor occupation or sports
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Intense sun exposure during the first 18 years of life or cumulative sun exposure over time
  • Previous family or personal history of melanoma
  • History of tanning bed use

Everyone needs sunscreens every day, rain or shine! DSC recommends a broad spectrum sun block and/ or sunscreen to minimize sun exposure.

The United States Department of Health & Human Services has declared ultraviolet (UVA and UVB) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). Every time you tan, you damage your skin and this damage accumulates over time. This accumulated damage, in addition to accelerating the aging process, also increases your risk for skin cancer.

Protect yourself from exposure to Ultraviolet light (sunlight):

  1. Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade or you’re likely to sunburn.
  2. Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible. Several companies specialize in sun protective clothing.
  3. Apply a broad spectrum sun block with a SPF of at least 15 in winter and 30 in summer. Apply 15 – 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Apply 1 ounce of sun block, enough to fill a shot glass, to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. Don’t forget to protect your lips! Wearing sunscreen should not provide a false sense of security about protection from UVB exposure as no sunscreen can provide 100 percent UVB protection. REAPPLY OFTEN!! Sunscreens or sun blocks should not be used to increase the time spent in sunlight.

Sun block/ Sunscreen Recommendations

Choose your sun protection based on the product’s ingredients rather than the name brand. Check labels.

  • A Physical Sunblock is best as it reflects sun off your skin.
  • Zinc oxide (Now transparent)
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Chemical sunscreens interact with the sun’s rays after they touch your skin. Broad spectrum products help to protect you from UVA and UVB light, both known to contribute to skin cancer and aging.
  • Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective clothing and applying sunscreen.

Be Careful

  1. Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn. Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. In addition, sand reflects 25 percent of the sun’s rays and snow reflects 80 percent of the sun’s rays. Sunscreen should be applied to exposed skin every day, not just on sunny days.
  2. Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.
  3. Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you’ve been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sun block with it.
  4. Check your skin monthly. If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, call us for an evaluation. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

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