One in five people get skin cancer, which often begins as a mole. Skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer, occurring in more than one million Americans every year. The main cause is tanning beds and overexposure to sunlight, especially when they result in sunburn and blistering. The sun’s ultraviolet rays age the skin and damage its immune system, especially in children and fair-skinned people. Prevention involves sun avoidance, protective clothing, and sunscreen with a SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 and preferably 30 to 50.
Since early detection of skin cancers is often crucial, Dr. Hutchins offers free screening consultations. Treatment of precancerous skin lesions usually leaves no scar, and early excision of any skin cancer minimizes the defect to be repaired.
The three most common types of skin cancers are named after the type of skin cell from which it arises:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell skin cancers are the most prevalent but least malignant. These are usually localized growths caused by excessive cumulative exposure to the sun and do not tend to spread. They are present on sun-exposed areas of the skin, especially the face. They rarely metastasize, and rarely cause death. They are easily treated with surgery or radiation.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) are common, but much less common than basal cell cancers. They metastasize more frequently than BCCs. Even then, the metastasis rate is quite low, with the exception of SCCs of the lip, ear, and in immunosuppressed patients.
Melanomas are the least prevalent but most malignant variety, and is the most common cancer in the young population (20 – 39 age group) causing death in 7,300 Americans every year. Since melanoma may begin in or near a mole or other dark spot on the skin, it is important to have any changing mole checked immediately so that an early melanoma can be removed while it is still curable. Shave excision of moles before such changes occur is an even safer approach. Scarring is avoided by shaving lesions superficial to the deeper dermal layer of the skin. It is estimated that approximately 85% of cases are caused by long periods of exposure to the sun.
Knowing the ABCD rule of skin cancer can save your life. Learn what each letter represents and how early detection at home can make the difference is early diagnosis and treatment success.
- A – Asymmetry: Normal moles or freckles are completely symmetrical. If you were to draw a line through a normal spot, you would have two symmetrical halves (mirror images). In cases of skin cancer, spots will not look the same on both sides.
- B – Border: A mole or spot with blurry and/or jagged edges.
- C – Color: A mole that is more than one hue is suspicious and needs to be evaluated by a doctor. Normal spots are usually one color. This can include lightening or darkening of the mole.
- D – Diameter: If a mole is larger than a pencil eraser (about 1/4 inch or 6mm), it needs to be examined by a doctor. This includes areas that do not have any other abnormalities (color, border, asymmetry).
If you have moles, especially any that are enlarging or changing in appearance, please come into Laser Skin Care for a free skin cancer screening to have them checked and removed before a problem develops.
Dr. Hutchins has developed a shave excision technique for removing moles without stitches or scars. When deeper excision is required, as for skin cancers or scar revision, Dr. Hutchins uses special, scar-minimizing suture techniques that he developed.
Dr. Hutchins has over three decades of experience in diagnosing and treating skin cancers, moles, and lesions, and his techniques have been published in cosmetic surgery journals and textbooks.