Skin Cancer: Patient Education

Skin Cancer Is the Most Common Cancer

"Skin cancer has reached epidemic proportions in the United States," says David F. Butler, MD, dermatologist. It's the most common cancer in the United States.

One in three Americans will develop skin cancer.

There are 900,000 cases of basal cell carcinoma and 200,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma in the United Stsates annually. Around 2500 people die each year from squamous cell carcinoma. Each year, 57,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed, resulting in 7400 deaths.

It’s very important that you:

  • Assess your skin regularly, checking for skin discoloration and abnormal moles
  • Avoid the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
  • Contact your primary-care physician or dermatologist immediately if you notice suspicious skin changes
  • Have all abnormal moles removed

Overview

The blazing Texas sun can take a toll on your skin. Working, playing or relaxing in the sun can bring you great joy, but it can also be dangerous. Long-term exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer, especially basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, and a history of repeated severe sunburns can cause the most deadly form of skin cancer: melanoma.

Skin cancer often begins as a slight discoloration of your skin or an abnormal mole or skin growth. Melanoma can grow quickly through your skin, into your bloodstream or lymph, and spread cancerous cells throughout your body. You’ll want immediate, effective treatment.

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is cancer that begins in the cells of your skin. Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States.

There are two main kinds of skin cancer:

  • Melanoma
    • Deadliest form of skin cancer
    • Can spread (metastasize) to other parts of your body if not caught early
    • Less common than basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas
  • Nonmelanoma
    • Basal cell carcinoma
      • Most common form of skin cancer
      • Most common form of cancer of all types of cancer
      • Rarely metastasizes
    • Squamous cell carcinoma
      • Usually occurs on sun-exposed areas
      • Generally does not metastasize
      • May sometimes be invasive
    • Merkel cell carcinoma

For more information, please select from the skin cancers listed above.

Melanoma that has spread (metastasized) is treated differently than basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

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What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

Skin cancers come in many different shapes. They may resemble:

  • Moles
  • Lumps
  • Discolored patches of skin
  • Freckle-like spots
  • Round, thickened skin
  • Scars

Skin cancers may have many different appearances. They can be:

  • Small
  • Shiny
  • Waxy
  • Scaly
  • Rough
  • Firm
  • Red
  • Crusty
  • Bleeding
  • May have other features

These signs can signal potentially cancerous changes in any mole:

  • Itching
  • Tenderness
  • Scaling
  • Bleeding
  • Crusting
  • Soreness

Find out about the ABCDEs of skin cancer

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Should I Check My Own Skin?

Yes! You should conduct a monthly skin assessment, checking for changes in moles — just as women perform monthly breast self-exams to check for lumps in their breasts.

The Scott & White Skin Cancer Team recommends that you:

  • Stand in front of a mirror and check your skin monthly for:
    • Unusual discolorations of skin
    • Abnormal moles, looking for changes in:
      • Color
      • Shape
      • Size
  • Check the hard-to-see areas:
    • Under your arms
    • The soles of your feet
    • Between your toes
  • Part your hair and check your scalp
  • Have your partner check your back for skin discolorations and changing moles

Note

If you have a suspicious coloration or a changing mole, contact your primary care physician or the Scott & White Dermatology Clinic at 254-742-3724.

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How Can I Get Checked for Skin Cancer?

Scott & White Annual Free Skin Cancer Screening

Co-sponsored with the American Academy of Dermatology, Scott & White Healthcare offers a free screening event once a year on the first Saturday in May at the Temple Northside Dermatology Clinic. It’s open to the public. No appointment is necessary.

At our free screening, our dermatologists and other health-care providers will:

  • Examine your skin for suspicious lesions
  • Tell you whether you need a skin biopsy or further follow-up
  • Provide you with a list of all dermatologists in the area

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