I'm pleased to introduce Dr. Julia Tzu, a fabulous dermatologist in Manhattan and one of my colleagues and classmates from my days at Johns Hopkins Medical School. Read her article on what you need to know about skin cancer, below.
Skin Cancer 101 by Julia Tzu, MD
Guest Blog Post for Lara Devgan, MD, MPH
Skin cancer has been on the rise in the past decades, and is the most common cancer in the United States. Although there are numerous types of skin cancers, the most common types include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Ultraviolet radiation from sun exposure (along with individual genetic susceptibility) is known to play a role in skin cancer development.
Basal cell carcinomas constitute the majority of skin cancers and are the most common type of cancer in the world. It typically presents as a pink, pearly growth, often found in sun-exposed areas of the skin. Although basal cell carcinomas are slow growing tumors that do very rarely spread to other parts of the body, they can grow to large sizes and cause destruction of local tissue and other bodily structures. Treatment for basal cell carcinomas can include topical chemotherapy agents, standard surgical excisions, electrodessication and curettage, and Mohs surgery.
Squamous cell carcinomas are the second most common type of skin cancers. It typically presents as a scaly pink growth or simply a pink growth, also commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the skin. Sometimes, squamous cell carcinomas can also be associated with high-risk human papilloma virus infection, and are thus correlated with sexual activity. Treatment for squamous cell carcinomas can include topical chemotherapy agents, standard surgical excisions, and Mohs surgery.
Melanomas constitute an important category of skin cancers because of its more aggressive behavior. Depending on its stage, melanomas have a higher probability of spreading to other parts of the body. Melanomas often present as an irregular appearing dark spot or an “ugly mole” and can occur anywhere on the body. Younger adults are increasingly being diagnosed with melanoma. When caught at the earliest stage, melanoma is easily treatable with a standard surgical excision and the prognosis is excellent.
Routine self monitoring of any new or changing skin lesions, combined with routine annual skin cancer screenings with your local dermatologist is recommended for early detection and treatment of skin cancers. Any new or changing growth or skin lesion should be biopsied for diagnosis. Avoiding excessive sun exposure and routine application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen can also help reduce one’s chances of developing skin cancer.