Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells have mutations (errors) in the DNA. These mutations cause cells to grow at an uncontrollable rate which creates a mass of cancer cells.

Causes of Skin Cancer

Ultraviolet (UV) Light  The overwhelming cause of skin cancer is exposure to UV light radiation that is found in sunlight and the lights used in tanning beds. UV rays make up only a minimal portion of the sun’s rays, but they are the main cause of the damage the sun has on the skin. The rays damage the skin cells which affects the DNA of the genes that are in control of the body’s skin cell growth. The amount of exposer a person get has many factors, this can include the strength of the rays, time exposed, if the skin is protected by sunscreen or clothing. The UV Index is a helpful guide for keeping your body protected from damaging radiation of UV light. Our Board Certified Dermatologist specializes in the prevention, detection of skin cancer and will help create a plan for your skin protection. Other Risk Factors Include:
  • Fair & Freckled Skin
  • History of Sunburns
  • Numerous Moles (Dysplastic Nevi)
  • Family History of Skin Cancer
  • Precancerous Skin Lesions (Actinic Keratoses)
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Radiation Exposure
  • Exposure to Arsenic

The Types of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer. The two most common are Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma. The most serious, but least common type of skin cancer is Melanoma which can be deadly if not detected early. Early detection and treatment of skin cancer is important because if they are not treated at an early stage they are likely to invade and destroy nearby tissue. In some cases the cancer can begin to spread elsewhere in the body. Our Board Certified Dermatologist, Dr. Mary Noel George, offers full body skin exam and skin cancer screenings. Skin cancer begins to form at the top layer of the skin which is known as the epidermis. The epidermis is the thin layer of skin that provides the body with a protective layer of skin cells that the body continually sheds. There are three main layers to the epidermis, these are important because the place where the cancer is formed determines the type of cancer and treatment options:

Basal Cell Carcinoma

The most common cancer in the world and is related to excessive sun exposure. Basal cell cancer usually appears on areas that receive regular sun exposer such as the nose, cheek, ear, face, neck, or extremities. They usually present as a pink, pearly bump or a flat pink patch on the extremities or trunk.  Untreated, basal cell skin cancer will tend to bleed, crust, and scab over. Basal cell is most common in individuals that have a fair complexion with light hair and light eyes, but can occur in anyone. Basal cell skin cancers spread slowly, but can cause considerable damage to local skin tissue if left untreated.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cells is the second most common form of skin cancer. This tumor usually appears as a red, crusty bump or as a red, scaly patch on the skin. It is typically found on sun exposed areas such as the face, rim of the ear, lip, neck, or extremities. Sometimes, an actinic keratosis (pre-cancer) is the earliest sign of a squamous cell carcinoma. If caught early, squamous cell carcinoma is typically curable. Left untreated, squamous cell cancer can metastasize (spread to other areas of the body).


Melanoma is a cancer of the pigment cells of the skin, called melanocytes. It is projected that almost 180,000 Americans will develop melanoma in the next year. One person dies from melanoma every hour. Like basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, melanoma is almost always curable if detected early.

Skin Cancer Detection & Treatment

Dr. George specializes in the prevention, detection, and treatment of skin cancer. In order to diagnose skin cancer, Dr. George must examine your skin. If necessary, Dr. George performs a biopsy to remove a sample of the targeted skin for examination under a microscope. Skin cancers such as Basal Cell are not likely to spread so the biopsy which removes the entire growth is likely to be the only test needed to determine the stage of cancer. For larger affected areas there may be additional tests required. Any mole that is new, changing, or symptomatic should be evaluated by a Board Certified Dermatologist in order to test for skin cancer. You can perform in-home routine self skin exams to spot changes and new growths in between appointments. The ABCDE system is helpful in detecting the warning signs of melanoma:
  • Asymmetry: If you cut a mole in half, the two halves are different
  • Border: The borders of a melanoma are often scalloped or jagged
  • Color: A variety of colors is a warning sign
  • Diameter: Any mole larger than a pencil eraser
  • Evolving: Any change in size, shape, color, or elevation or symptoms such as itching or tenderness

Prevention of Skin Cancer

Protecting your skin from harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun is the best way to prevent skin cancer. Regular use of a daily sunscreen reduces the chance of developing skin cancer by 40%. Other Prevention Measures Include:
  • Limiting Sun Exposure between 10AM – 4PM
  • Wearing Wide Brimmed Hats
  • Avoid Indoor Tanning
  • Wear Long Sleeves & Pants.

Schedule Your Skin Cancer Screening Today!

We specialize in the prevention, detection, and treatment of skin cancer. We recommend a yearly skin exam for most patients and more frequent screenings for patients with risk factors or a history of skin cancer. Call us at (314) 344-0004 to make an appointment to have your skin checked.

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