Skin cancer accounts for more new cancer cases every year than breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer combined, affecting about one in five Americans. The most common forms of skin cancer are quite treatable, and early detection improves your chances. Dr. Stella Matsuda and Dr. Shannon Sheu and the health care team of Matsuda Dermatology in Honolulu, Hawaii, are your partners in screening, diagnosing, and treating precancer and cancer. Contact the office today, online or by phone, to make an appointment.
Though skin cancer describes the abnormal growth of skin cells, it’s not a single condition, since there are many types of skin cells. Skin cancers are grouped in three general categories:
Each of these groups has excessive exposure to sunlight as a risk factor, but in some cases cancers can start in places not normally exposed to sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation, found in both natural sunlight and artificial sources, such as those used in tanning beds, can cause the mutations that start many cases of skin cancer, but there are other suspected factors, too, such as a weakened immune system and toxic exposure situations.
Each category of skin cancer has its own appearance, but there are many variations. Any new or suspicious spot is reason to make an appointment with Matsuda Dermatology for further investigation.
Basal cell carcinoma usually starts in sun-exposed parts of your body, like your neck or face. This type of cancer may produce bumps with a waxy or pearl-like appearance, though it may also create flat lesions that are flesh colored or brown.
Squamous cell carcinoma also forms where skin is exposed to sun, but people with darker skin have an increased risk of carcinomas in other areas that rarely receive exposure. Typical appearances for this skin cancer category are red nodules that are firm to the touch, or flat lesions that look scaly or crusted over.
Melanoma is the cancer most likely to occur somewhere other than sun-exposed skin. It also has the greatest variation in appearance. It can occur on normal skin or in an existing mole. On open skin, it may take the form of a large brown spot with smaller dark spots within it. From a mole, it may seem as though the shape or color of the mole is changing, and it may have a different texture.
Treatment depends on the stage of cancer. Early stages typically use some method of excision to remove the cancerous tissue, though freezing through cryosurgery and chemically burning are sometimes used. When a tumor metastasizes, or moves to other body parts, then other cancer treatments may be required.