Over 87,000 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. In most cases, skin cancer is treatable when diagnosed early. If you have a personal or family history or skin cancer, it’s imperative that you have regular screenings from an experienced, board-certified dermatologist like Dr. Eleanor Y. Ford of Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. Call Dr. Ford’s office or book an appointment online for a comprehensive exam and treatment if necessary.
Skin cancer is a condition where skin cells grow uncontrollably. It develops when DNA damage, usually from ultraviolet radiation from excessive sun exposure or tanning beds, stimulates mutation and rapid growth. This growth causes tumors to develop, which can be diagnosed early and removed quickly and efficiently with diligent monitoring.
Skin cancer takes many forms, but there are three major types which affect different layers of the skin.
Basal cell skin cancer is the most common form of skin cancer in fair-skinned people. It derives its name from its location in the basal cell layer of the skin. Basal cell skin cancer is most often found on parts of the body that are often exposed to the sun, such as the face, shoulders, and back. It rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
Squamous cell carcinoma is also most common in people with fair skin tones and develops in the squamous cells. Unlike basal cell cancer, the abnormal cells in squamous cell cancer begins in the outer layer of skin. This form of skin cancer can also be found on sun-exposed areas of the face, head, ears, and neck. Squamous cell skin cancer can spread to other parts of the body.
Melanoma, the most aggressive type of cancer, develops in the melanocyte cells of the skin. It's the most likely form of skin cancer to spread to other parts of the body. Melanoma develops anywhere on the body, regardless of past sun exposure. Risk factors for melanoma include family history - any first degree relative with melanoma increases the risk for other family members to also develop melanoma.
Dr. Ford offers a variety of treatments for skin cancer. After diagnosis, the first step is removing the abnormal cells. Skin cancer removal is usually an outpatient procedure, and you can go home soon after the removal is complete. If necessary, Dr. Ford may remove some of the surrounding skin and tissues, to try to ensure that any extended strands of abnormal cells are removed.
Mohs surgery is a more delicate and painstaking procedure where the skin cancer is removed gradually, with each excision carefully reviewed under a microscope to evaluate the appearance of abnormal cells. This procedure takes longer due to the close inspection of each sample of removed tissue but is very effective at removing skin cancer without removing healthy skin cells unnecessarily.