Skin Cancer Screening

Screening for skin cancer can be life saving! Our goal at Morristown Dermatology is to carefully check your skin for early signs of skin cancer.  All skin cancers are easier to cure if found early.

If an area on the skin looks suspicious, a biopsy is usually preformed. One of our dermatologists will remove as much of the growth as possible with the biopsy. This specimen is then sent to a Dermatopathologist who looks at the tissue under a microscope and can determine if it is a benign growth, an Actinic Keratosis or “precancer” or an actual skin cancer. Treatment can then be determined based on the pathologist’s report.

The most common type of skin cancer is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC).  BCCs arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin). They can have different appearances which is why it is helpful to have an experienced dermatologist exam your skin regularly.  BCCs can start as a “pimple-like” growth, an open sore that doesn’t heal a red patch or a pink or shiny bump; they can even resemble a scar. They are usually in sun exposed areas of the body being caused by a combination of cumulative UV exposure and intense, occasional UV exposure.  BCC can be disfiguring if allowed to grow, but almost never spreads (metastasizes) beyond the original tumor site. In rare cases BCC can spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is derived from squamous cells, which compose most of the epidermis or skin’s upper layers.  It is the second most common type of skin cancer.  SCCs often look like red scaly patches or an open sore that does not heal.  It may be a bump with a central depression, or resemble a wart; they may crust or bleed.  SCCs are most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the rim of the ear, lower lip, face, bald scalp, neck, back of hands, arms and legs but may also be found on the mucous membranes and genitals.   They can become disfiguring and sometimes deadly if allowed to grow.

Anyone who has had a BCC or SCC has an increased chance of developing another, especially in the same area or nearby. Recurrences of the previously treated skin cancer are also possible and typically will occur within the first two years after surgery. SCC on the nose, ears, and lips are especially prone to recurrence. These skin cancers can recur even when they were carefully removed the first time.

You should pay close attention to any previously treated area and point out any changes noted to your dermatologist.   Even if no suspicious signs are noticed, regularly scheduled follow-up visits including total-body skin exams are an essential part of post-treatment care.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.  Malignant Melanoma (MM) develops when unrepaired damage to skin cells (most often from ultraviolet radiation from the sun or from tanning beds) cause the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.   The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, occasional UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease.  It may arise in a pre-existing “mole” or may be a new growth you or your doctor notice.

Individuals who have a family history of MM, have already been diagnosed with MM, or sun burn easily and who have red hair are at increased risk for MM.

Over time MM can grow into the deeper layer of skin, (the dermis) and eventually may spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body.  Melanoma is easier to cure if it is found before it spreads.

When identified and removed in the early stages you can expect a complete cure!

PREVENTING SKIN CANCER

While most skin cancers are almost always curable when detected and treated early, it is best to prevent them in the first place. Try following the sun safety recommendations below:

  • Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
  • Do not allow your skin to burn.  Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB)
    sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to the exposed areas of your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply frequently, at least every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See your physician every year for a full skin exam.