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Skin Cancer

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Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting more than 2.1 million people, according to National Cancer Institute statistics.

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer presents in three main forms: basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma. Basal cell is the most common type of cancer in those with fair skin, while squamous cell is most often found in people with darker skin. These types of cancer are less likely to spread to other parts of the body than melanoma.

Who develops skin cancer?

Certain risk factors are common among all three types of skin cancer. These include:

  • a family history of skin cancer
  • being fair, with skin that easily burns, freckles, red or blond hair or light eyes
  • having at least one blistering sunburn in your life
  • taking certain antibiotics or antidepressants, or having a medical condition that suppresses the immune system
  • using sunlamps and tanning booths

Other risk factors are specific to the type of skin cancer. Radiation therapy and old injuries to the skin can increase the odds of developing basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. Human papillomavirus can increase the risk of squamous cell carcinoma.

What are the symptoms of skin cancer?

For basal cell or squamous cell, you may notice a growth that is firm and red; small, smooth, shiny, pale or waxy; bleeds easily or develops a scab; is flat, red, rough, itchy or tender. For melanoma, there is often a change in the shape, color, size or feel of an existing mole.

How is skin cancer diagnosed?

Your doctor can perform a skin check to look for suspicious growths; if he or she spots anything, a biopsy may be performed to look for the presence of cancer or abnormal cells.

How is skin cancer treated?

Most basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas can be cured with fairly minor surgery or other types of local treatments. Other treatments may include radiation therapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapy (medications that target cancer-causing gene changes in cells).

To learn more about cancer services at The Daniel and Gloria Blumenthal Cancer Center, call 201-634-5339.

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