Skin Cancer Screening
Fair-skinned people have a higher risk of developing a skin cancer than dark-skinned people. For everyone, the more sun exposure you receive, the more likely you are to develop a skin cancer. However, it is never too late to start using good sun protection. Wear hats, sun protective clothing, and a sunscreen that cover both UVA and UVB and has an SPF of at least 30.
The vast majority of skin cancers are present for more than a year before being diagnosed and their growth is rather slow. Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma usually grow slowly and can be cured with excision or Mohs Micrographic Surgery. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, can be life threatening and should be recognized early. If you are at risk, you should learn about the warning signs of skin cancer.
Please contact us at 206-859-5777 to schedule an appointment for a skin cancer screening. For most patients, insurance will cover skin exams.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Basal cell cancers generally look like a pink or red spot that may bleed and crust over but never heal. Often times they are mistaken for blemishes, or acne spots. If you have a blemish that has been present for many months, or seems to go away and then come back, it may be a basal cell cancer. These tumors usually grow slowly, and generally do not spread to other areas of the body. However, they do spread along the surface, and downward. If left for many years, basal cell cancers can extend below the skin to the bone and nerves, causing considerable damage. It is usually not a life-threatening form of skin cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. It is found most commonly on the face, head, neck and hands (areas of high sun exposure). Usually, squamous cell cancers appear as a red bump or as a scaly, crusty patch. Like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can look like a blemish that doesn't go away. If you have any "spots" that seem suspicious, or that bleed spontaneously, you should have them looked at by a doctor. Rarely, squamous cell cancer can develop into large masses and become invasive. And, unlike basal cell cancer, this form of cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, it is important to get early treatment.
Malignant melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Every year, an estimated 8000 Americans will die from melanoma; it is projected that greater than 108,000 Americans will develop melanoma annually.
Melanoma begins in melanocytes, the skin cells that produce the dark protective pigment called melanin which makes the skin tan. Since melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, the cancer appears in mixed shades of tan, brown, and black; although, it can also be red or white. Melanoma can spread, making early detection and treatment essential.
Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole or freckle. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on your body to detect changes early. Any changing mole must be examined by a dermatologist. Melanoma can be cured if treated in its early stages.
Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the most important preventable cause of melanoma. Light-skinned individuals are at particular risk. Heredity also plays a role. You have an increased chance of developing melanoma if you have a relative with melanoma. Atypical moles, which may run in families, and having a large number of moles, can serve as markers for people at increased risk for developing melanoma.
Dark skin is not a guarantee against melanoma. People with darker skin color can also develop melanoma, especially on the palms, soles, under the nails, in the mouth, or on the genitalia.