Dermatology, Cosmetic Surgery, Mohs Micrographic Skin Cancer Surgery & Laser Surgery

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Causes and Treatments of Skin Cancer: Are You at Risk?

3 Min Read


Skin cancer is easily treatable when diagnosed early.Skin cancer affects one out of every five Americans.

While skin cancer is easily treatable when it is diagnosed early, it can spread and become more serious—or even fatal—if the signs are disregarded.

What Are the Types of Skin Cancer?

Not all skin cancer is the same. There are three main divisions of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

  1. Basal cell carcinoma is caused by the uncontrolled growth and division of the basal cells (cells from the lower part of the epidermis that produce new skin cells). These are most often found on the face, neck, ears, shoulders, and back.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma is caused by the uncontrolled growth and division of the squamous cells (cells from the outermost part of the epidermis that play a role in osmosis, diffusion, and filtration). These cancers are commonly found on the face, neck, ears, and scalp.
  3. Melanoma is caused by the uncontrolled growth of the melanocytes (the cells that produce pigment). This is the most severe form of skin cancer and can spread quickly if not treated.

What Are the Causes of Skin Cancer?

While the development of skin cancer can be influenced by genetics, moles, and lifestyle choices, it is most commonly attributed to being exposed to UV radiation. 

Ultraviolet rays due to sun exposure or tanning beds damage your DNA and alter the way that your cells reproduce, grow, and divide. Skin cancer can develop when the growth of these cells is not kept in check.

How Can I Identify Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is commonly identified and diagnosed by changes in your skin or moles. 

For basal cell carcinoma, watch out for:

  • Open sores that do not heal
  • Shiny bumps or nodules
  • Slightly raised, pink growths
  • Reddish patches

For squamous cell carcinoma, watch out for:

  • Crusty skin sores
  • Thick, rough, or scaly patches
  • Open wounds or warts that do not heal

For melanoma, watch out for moles or skin patches that follow the ABCDEs:

  • Asymmetry (half of the mole does not match the other)
  • Border (uneven or ragged borders)
  • Color (more than one shade)
  • Diameter (larger than six millimeters)
  • Evolving (moles that grow or change in appearance)

How Can I Treat Skin Cancer?

There are several tissue removal options that can treat skin cancer—including melanoma. These techniques remove the visible tumor as well as a margin (a buffer rim of tissue around the cancerous cells).

Unfortunately, these excision techniques result in scarring, which may be visible if the cancer is located in an exposed area like the face, neck, hands, or arms. 

While there is no way to eliminate scarring, some techniques can reduce the amount of scarring. One of these techniques is Mohs surgery. 

Mohs surgery is a conservative but highly effective skin cancer treatment that removes cancerous tissue layer by layer (as opposed to the “chunk” of tissue that is removed with many other techniques).

By removing the tissue in layers, there is no unnecessary damage to the surrounding tissues, and this allows for better aesthetics and a more comfortable recovery. 

Once the skin cancer has been removed, the surrounding edges can be pulled together and sutured or covered with a skin graft.

How Can I Learn More About Mohs Surgery?

If you would like to learn more about Mohs surgery, contact Skin Physicians & Surgeons, Inc. and set up a consultation by calling (909) 981-8929.

You can also stay up-to-date with Dr. Sandra Lee by following Dr. Pimple Popper on Twitter or Instagram.

Melanoma Monday

image courtesy of

What is Melanoma Monday? “Melanoma Monday” is observed on the first Monday of May and it is also termed as May Melanoma Skin Cancer Month. This day is also known as National Skin Self-Examination Day. People are advised and encouraged to undergo the examination of their skin for skin cancer. Of the different types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most deadly and accounts for about 75% of all skin cancer fatalities. Melanomas can also develop in other areas of the body such as the eye, underneath nails and inside the nose and mouth.

Melanoma Warning Signs: ABCDE

A – Asymmetry: is the mole asymmetrical? If you imagine a line drawn across the center of the mole, if the two halves do not match then they are considered asymmetrical.

B – Border: does the border or edge of the mole look uneven?

C – Color: is the mole one uniform color? If there are several colors or shades of a color within a mole this could be a warning sign.

D – Diameter: how big is the mole? Melanomas often have a diameter of 6mm (1/4inch) or more (diameter is the length across the mole).

E – Evolving: has the mole changed in shape, size or color? Have you noticed any other changes such as bleeding, itching or puss coming from the mole? These may be signs of a malignant mole so seek medical assistance.

Early Detection Is Crucial For Treatment Success
As with many other types of cancer, treatments are more successful when there is early detection. However, unlike most cancers, melanoma does normally not respond well to chemotherapy, radiotherapy or medication. When melanoma is at a later stage and has metastasized (spreading to other parts of the body), treatment options are limited and palliative care is the main course of action. Drug treatments for melanoma, when successful, do not provide a cure. They may extend life for a time measured in months not years. There will always be exceptions and some people with metastatic (stage 4) melanoma will live for many years after diagnosis. However, the prognosis for advanced melanoma is normally not good hence early detection is critical for success.

Dear 16-year-old Me

A great video about those who have been personally touched by Melanoma. Created by The David Cornfield Melanoma Fund. The video speaks for itself.

Melanoma Drug Breakthrough

Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer in the United States and worldwide. The incidence of melanoma in people under 30 is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50% in young women since 1980. By regular skin cancer screenings Melanoma can be detected in its early stages and successfully removed. However, in later stages Melanoma can be deadly and until recently few treatment options were available. The New York Times reports that two new drugs have shown new promise to prolong lives of those with advanced melanoma. While it is not a cure for metastatic melanoma it may add several months to the expected lifespans of patients.

Trials recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine provide evidence that vemurafenib and ipilimumab improve survival rates of advanced melanoma patients by one attacking a specific genetic mutation and the other by unleashing the body’s immune system to fight the disease respectively. The manufactures of the two new drugs are planning trials to use the agents together and see if the combination will improve patient outcomes further.

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