Over a million Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer each year, with one in five Americans developing skin cancer at some point in their lives. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States today, with the vast majority of non-melanoma skin cancers, approximately 90%, attributed to ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure. At California Dermatology Specialists, we believe strongly in prevention as the best cure. The most critical preventative measures against skin cancer and precancerous lesions include:
- Staying out of the sun during peak hours from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Using sunscreen year round with SPF of at least 15 with a product that blocks both UVA and UVB
- Wearing sunglasses, wide brimmed hats, protective clothing and covering arms and legs outside
- Checking your skin each month, and contacting your dermatologist if you notice changes in your skin
- Scheduling regular skin exams with your dermatologist, usually one every year if you are over 40 years of age
Despite our best efforts, in some cases prevention is simply not possible. The good news is that if caught early through routine visual screenings and self-examinations, the majority of skin cancer cases are curable. If you have been diagnosed with skin cancer or a precancerous lesion, or have identified an area of concern, the highly-skilled team of Board Certified Dermatologists at California Dermatology Specialists, located in Brentwood, Los Angeles, offers a range of advanced treatments, including surgery if necessary, for localized lesions, tumors, and cancerous growths. We encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation so we can begin your treatment as soon as possible.
Benign or Precancerous Lesions
Moles or Nevi are skin growths that rarely develop into cancer. Most people have dozens of moles on their bodies that can be flat, raised, smooth, oval, round, pink, tan, brown, skin-colored, and usually smaller than a quarter-inch across. If any mole on your body looks different from others, it is important to make an appointment with a dermatologist for accurate diagnosis and possible treatments. Additionally, if you have a large number of moles or a family history of melanoma, it is important to have regular screenings with a dermatologist.
Types of Skin Cancer & Skin Cancer Treatment
There are three major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are the vast majority of all skin cancers. Although these are malignant cancers, they are less likely to spread to other parts of the body. Early treatment can help prevent localized destruction of tissue. Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, however it is an aggressive cancer that tends to spread to other parts of the body and it can be fatal if not treated early.
Basal Cell and Squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed with a biopsy, which involves taking a small portion of tissue to examine microscopically. In some cases a larger biopsy may be necessary and may include surrounding tissue. A biopsy can almost always be done in a dermatologist’s office.
Treatments for Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas
- Prescription Medications: During the course of a few weeks, creams can be applied at home to stimulate the immune system, enabling the body to eliminate the carcinoma on its own. Some topical creams may be able to destroy the cancer cells directly.
- Curettage and Desiccation: a small instrument called a curette is used to scrape out the tumor followed by the use of electric current to destroy any remaining cancerous cells.
- Surgical Excision: the tumor is surgically removed with adequate margins and the wound is stitched closed. This treatment modality provides a high cure rate in cases where the tumor is more aggressive and curettage and desiccation are not preferred.
- Mohs Micrographic Surgery: This precise surgical method is used to excise larger tumors; it combines the removal of the tumor with a microscopic review of very thin layers of the removed tissue during the procedure. Examining the tissue piece by piece enables more complete tumor removal while minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
- Radiation Therapy: radiation is often used to treat cases that are more difficult either due to location, persistence, or severity.
- Cryosurgery: rarely, basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell carcinomas may be treated with liquid nitrogen to freeze the tumor, though this is not typically a preferred method.
The least common, but most aggressive, type of skin cancer is melanoma, which is found in the bottom layer of the epidermis (your skin). It is the most common form of cancer is adults age 25-29. Melanocyte cells in the skin produce melanin which is the substance responsible for skin pigmentation. This is why melanomas often present as dark spots either brown or black in color on the skin. These lesions spread quickly to internal organs and the lymph system. Early detection is vital for curing this most dangerous form of skin cancer. This type of skin cancer can be genetic and therefore it is very important to be vigilant if you or a family member has been diagnosed with melanoma. Although all skin types can develop melanoma, those who easily sunburn with fair features are at greatest risk.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Melanoma
Melanoma is diagnosed via a biopsy. Treatments include surgical removal, radiation therapy, and/or chemotherapy. The surgical treatment of melanoma is usually more aggressive than is required for other skin cancers. Dermatologists will remove up to 3cm of normal-appearing tissue surrounding the tumor to ensure the complete removal of this dangerous malignancy. In some cases, lymph nodes in the area may be removed and tested for cancer depending on how advanced the melanoma is.
After Treatment of Skin Cancer, Follow Up and Prevention
The majority of skin cancers are cured by surgical removal in our office. However, it is possible for these cancers to reoccur, usually within three years. Regular follow-up after treatment is important to ensure that there is no re-occurrence of the tumor and no new concerning lesions have developed; the regularity of follow-up examinations will depend on your unique form of skin cancer and treatment. Please be sure to contact our office immediately if you notice any changes in your skin following your initial treatment.
Contact California Dermatology Specialists
At California Dermatology Specialists, with offices in Brentwood, Los Angeles, we specialize in offering the very highest level of patient care founded on a philosophy of medical excellence coupled with a dedication to cutting-edge advancements in dermatology and aesthetic medicine. Led by our Medical Director, Board Certified Dermatologist Dr. Eric Meinhardt, our highly trained and experienced staff of dermatologists, nurses, and licensed aestheticians have made it their goal to provide you with the specialized, customized skin care you require to address all of your medical and aesthetic concerns at their source. Whether you are seeking medical dermatologic care or cosmetic enhancement services, we will work with you to develop an individually-tailored treatment plan that will optimize your health and well-being and maximize your comfort and safety.
If you require additional information about removal of cancerous or precancerous growths at California Dermatology Specialists, or would like additional information about our complete offering of dermatological and aesthetic services, we invite you to contact our office today. We look forward to hearing from you!