Skin cancer is extremely common. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two most common types of skin cancer but, thankfully, they are the least likely to spread. Melanoma, a less common type of cancer is highly metastatic and carries a much higher risk of complications than basal and squamous cell carcinomas. Skin cancer typically affects areas exposed to the sun such as the scalp, face, neck, ears, hands and arms. Areas rarely exposed to the sun, however, can still be affected, just not as often.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
- Fair/light colored skin, eyes and hair
- Extended exposure to the sun
- History of severe sunburns
- Age > 50
- Family history of skin cancer
Basal-cell carcinoma (BCC) can first appear as a painless raised area of shiny skin with small blood vessels running across the surface of it. Basal cell carcinoma may also present as an ulceration that fails to heal. Either way, BCC slowly damages the tissue around it but is very unlikely to affect the surrounding areas or result in death.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer and typically appears as a scaly, hard lump with or without discoloration to the skin. Like basal cell carcinoma, it may also present as an ulcer that stubbornly never heals. Although SCC, is more likely to spread than BCC, metastasis is rare and most damage is isolated and easily removed surgically.
Melanoma, on the other hand, is much more aggressive and one of the most deadly cancers in general. Melanoma usually presents as a mole that suddenly starts changing size, shape and color. The borders of the mole also tend to be irregular, varies in color and may be itchy and bleed easily.
Yearly skin checks by a skilled medical professional is recommended for everyone, especially those who have a history of extensive sun exposure and/or sunburns. Abnormal changes or ulcerations that fail to heal should be examined carefully and likely biopsied for diagnosis. Treatment with surgical removal of the affected skin and surrounding tissue is extremely effective when the cancer is caught early.
Here in our ENT practice, Dr. Bailey has extensive experience with removing cancerous lesions anywhere on the scalp, face and neck regions. Treatment to these very visible areas are best done by a skilled and aesthetically trained surgeon, such as Dr. Bailey, in order to produce the most cosmetically appealing results. Radiation, chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy (PDT) and biologic therapy may also be required if the cancer has spread to the surrounding areas.