Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 22,861
    Dermatologist Amy Ross discusses the warning signs of Skin Cancer and what to do about if you do notice a warning sign.

    Amy Ross: Hi, my name is Dr. Amy Ross. I am a Board Certified Dermatologist and we will discuss the warning signs or Skin Cancer and what to do about if you do notice one of these warning signs of Skin Cancer.

    The most common warning sign of Skin Cancer is a mole that may have been prevalent for a long time however it's suddenly changing and this is a sign of a serious form of the Skin Cancer called Melanoma. We are traditionally taught the ABCDs to monitor our skin for changes in our mole and A stands for asymmetry, B stands for border, C stands for color and D stands for diameter, I will explain all that in an easy to understand fashion. So something that's perfectly circular, that's been there forever is not something to worry about, however if that perfect circle suddenly becomes asymmetrical, the border becomes irregular or the color becomes much darker or the diameter grows to well we say is 6 mm and this is about the size of a pencil eraser that is definitely something that needs to be brought to your physician's attention.

    Other common warning signs of Skin Cancer include sores that don't heal or bumps that bleed spontaneously without any irritation. The most serious form of Skin Cancer is called Melanoma and these are typically thought of as brown spots, moles on the skin that Melanoma evolves from. However Melanoma can evolve from normal skin and it can also be non pigmented or non colored. So although we think about moles and changing moles as the most common ways that Melanoma develops, but Melanoma can derive from normal skin or from a non colored surface.

    Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of Skin Cancer and this type of Skin Cancer we think of that as pink spots that don't heal and these can be found most commonly on the head and neck and are sometimes thought of as little pimples before people realize they haven't healed over several months and occasionally bleed. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is also more common than Melanoma but less common than Basal Cell Carcinoma. These again are often thought of as sometimes crusty spots or pink spots that don't heal and again the most location is the head and neck region. It is a good idea to get an annual skin check by a dermatologist, however if you have a personal or family history or melanoma getting an annual skin check may not be enough. People with fair skin and with a family history of melanoma should be very aggressive about checking their own skin for changes and drawing the attention of their dermatologist to any new or changing spots. If you do not have a personal or family history of Skin Cancer, getting an annual skin check is still a good idea and if possible seeing the same dermatologist each year so that they may monitor any changes in your skin. So if you are diagnosed with a Skin Cancer, there are many options, first of all it's important to figure out what type of Skin Cancer you are diagnosed with. Basal Cell Carcinomas are again the most common type of Skin Cancer and these can be sometimes treated with topical medication with laser treatments, with light treatments but most commonly are treated with surgery. Squamous Cell Carcinomas again depending on the depth of the Skin Cancer can sometimes be treated with topical treatments as well, although the common treatment is surgery.

    The type of surgery that is most effective for Basal Cell Carcinomas and Squamous Cell Carcinomas is the surgery called Mohs surgery and this surgery is named after the person who invented the technique for treating Skin Cancers, Frederick Mohs. The reason that Mohs surgery is 99% effective for the treatment of Basal Cell Carcinomas and Squamous Cell Carcinoma is because of the way the skin is processed once the Skin Cancer is removed. Once the Skin Cancer is cut out your physician will process the tissue while you wait and examine 100% of the margin of the tissue in order to ensure that all of the cancer is removed before you go home and leave the office. If you are diagnosed with a Melanoma, the treatment for Melanoma is surgery, depending on the depth of your Melanoma depends on how large of a surgical procedure you will require. This should be discussed throughly with a board certified dermatologist. Sometimes Melanomas should be evaluated by other sub-specialists after surgery and this can be better addressed by your dermatologist at the time of diagnosis. This is Dr. Amy Ross and I want to thank you for taking the time to view this video on how to prevent and treat sunburns and Skin Cancer.