Skin Health

What You Should Know About Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer

Question: What is the most common type of cancer in the United States?

If you guessed skin cancer, you are correct. It is the most common type of cancer with more cases diagnosed each year than all other cancers combined. The good news is that for non-melanoma skin cancers, the death rate is low thanks to the power of early detection and intervention.

The two most common types of non-melanoma skin cancer are:

  • Basal cell carcinoma – This is the most frequently occurring type of skin cancer. It typically appears as a shiny bump , red patch, open non healing sore or skin growth, and lesions may ooze, crust, itch or bleed.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – This second-most common form of skin cancer often appears as scaly red patches, open sores, rough or raised growths of skin or thickened or wart-like skin.

One of the biggest risk factors for developing skin cancer is sun exposure. Unprotected exposure to UVA and UVB rays, along with a history of sunburns, can greatly increase your risk for skin cancer. Other risk factors include indoor tanning, lighter skin, red hair, atypical moles, genetic predisposition, previous skin cancer and past radiation therapy.

Discovering skin cancer during the earliest, most treatable stages is key to  having the best long-term outcome. There are a few ways to detect it. Start with doing a skin self-check once a month. Stand in front of a mirror and examine your skin. Have a family member or friend help you look at your back and other areas you may not be able to see. Interestingly, over 70% of skin cancers are discovered by the patient or their family members and trigger further evaluation by a healthcare provider.

It is also a good idea to visit your dermatologist for an annual skin check. During your visit, your doctor will examine your skin and look for any unusual bumps, growths or lesions and, if needed, will obtain a biopsy.

Treatment for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma mostly involves surgical excision. Additional treatment options may include targeted radiation therapy and topical chemotherapy creams. Depending on the size and location of your cancer, a treatment plan will be established that may involve a plastic surgeon to reconstruct any structures that were altered.

Although there is a high success rate in treating non-melanoma skin cancers, it is better to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Start with taking these steps:

  • Seek shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Cover up with clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Avoid tanning outside or in tanning beds.

Edward-Elmhurst Health provides the full spectrum of services for detecting, treating and preventing skin cancers. Our multi-disciplinary team includes dermatologists, oncologists, primary care providers and our plastic surgery team. We work together to ensure patients have the best possible outcome so they feel – and look – their best today and tomorrow.

Learn more about protecting your skin. Make an appointment online or call 630-527-6363.