"Have You Checked Your Skin Lately"
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What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in America, but it is also one of the most curable if detected and treated early. It develops when unchecked DNA damage triggers cells to grow uncontrollably and form cancerous tumors.

Dr. Hale - What Is Skin Cancer?

What to Watch For

DNA damage to skin cells is most commonly caused by intense intermittent or cumulative sustained exposure to UV radiation from the sun and from tanning beds. While skin cancer lesions typically occur on sun-exposed areas of the skin, such as the face, hands, neck, ears, scalp, shoulders, and back, they can also appear on unexposed areas of the body.

Lesions take on a different appearance depending on the type of skin cancer present—basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma.

Types of Skin Cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma

The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma arises from basal cells in the upper layer of skin. It can show up as a shiny flesh-colored mole or bump, and can be pigmented on darker skin. It may also appear as a red or pink scaly sore.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma can grow and spread to other organs if not caught and treated expediently. It can present as a scaly red patch or as an open sore that can crust over, itch, and bleed. Squamous cell carcinoma usually develops on areas of the skin which have chronic sun damage, i.e. areas that are exposed every day like the face, the scalp, the ears an the backs of the hands.


The most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma occurs when skin cells called melanocytes mutate and grow uncontrolled. They surface as mole-like spots with misshapen borders, and they can appear anywhere on the body but most commonly on the chest and back of men, and the legs of women. They commonly occur in areas of previous sunburns or intense UV exposure. Read our brochure.

Basal Cell Examples

Basal Cell

Basal Cell

Squamous Cell Examples



Melanoma Examples



Acral Lentiginous Melanoma

Acral Lentiginous Melanoma (ALM) occurs in minimally sun-exposed areas – hands, feet and skin under the nails. It can appear in all skin types but is more common in people with darker skin and Asian people.
Read our brochure.

Ocular Melanoma

Ocular melanoma most often affects the middle layer of your eye (the uvea), which includes the colored portion (iris), the muscle fibers around the lens (ciliary body), and the layer of blood vessels that lines the back of the eye (choroid). Melanoma can also develop in t he conjunct iva, t he clear t issue that covers the white part of the eye and the inside of theeyelids. Read our brochure.

ALM Examples

ALM Example 1

ALM Example 2

How Is Skin Cancer Treated?

Your dermatologist will examine any skin changes and likely take a biopsy of suspicious areas to determine if skin cancer is present, as well as the type and stage. Treatment is determined by the type, size, depth, and location of skin cancer lesions.

Basal Cell CarcinomaSquamous Cell CarcinomaMelanoma
U.S. Cases per Year4.3 million1+ million200,000
U.S. Deaths per Year200015,0007000
Appearance• Shiny flesh-colored mole or pimple
• Red or pink scaly sore
• Scaly red patch
• Open scabby sore that can itch and bleed
• Mole-like spot with misshapen borders
• Painful, itching or burning sore
• Dark lesion with discolored border
Treated with Cryosurgery
Treated with Excisional Surgery
Treated with Mohs Surgery
Treated with Curettage & Electrodesiccation
Treated with Laser Surgery
Treated with Radiation Therapy
Treated with Photodynamic Therapy
Treated with Topical Medications
Treated with Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy
Treated with Immunotherapy
Treated with Targeted Therapy Drugs
  • Cryosurgery

    Liquid nitrogen freezes and destroys precancerous and early stage skin cancer cells.
    *Small, superficial basal and squamous cell carcinomas

  • Excisional Surgery

    Cancerous tissue and a safety margin of healthy skin are excised (or cut) from the skin.
    *Small, early stage basal and squamous cell carcinomas
    *Early stage (0-1) melanomas

  • Mohs Surgery

    To preserve as much healthy skin as possible, affected skin is removed in layers until no more cancerous cells remain.
    *Large, aggressive, or recurring basal or squamous cell carcinomas, often with indefinite edges
    *Stage 0 melanoma

  • Curettage & Electrodesiccation

    Cancerous tissue is scraped with a curettage and the skin surface is cauterized to stop the bleeding and seal the wound.
    *Small, superficial, or minimally invasive basal or squamous cell carcinomas

  • Laser Surgery

    A high-intensity beam of light shrinks or destroys cancerous or precancerous tissue.
    *Superficial basal and squamous cell carcinomas in conjunction with another therapy

  • Radiation Therapy

    Low-intensity X-ray beams shrink or kill the tumor over a series of treatments.
    *Difficult-to-treat basal or squamous cell carcinomas
    *Melanomas that have metastasized or returned

  • Photodynamic Therapy

    Light sources work synergistically with a light-sensitive drug to eradicate cancer cells.
    *Superficial basal or squamous cell carcinomas

  • Topical Medications

    Creams and gels target cancer cells directly or stimulate the immune system to attack and destroy.
    *Superficial basal or squamous cell carcinomas

  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy

    The sentinel lymph node is removed and checked for cancer cells alongside surgery to remove the original tumor.
    *Stage II melanoma

  • Immunotherapy

    Used alone or in combination with other treatments, these medicines prompt the immune system to destroy cancer cells.
    *Advanced (Stage III and Stage IV) melanomas
    *Advanced or recurrent basal or squamous cell carcinomas

  • Targeted Therapy Drugs

    Targeted drugs can shrink cancer cells and tumors and have shown promise treating melanomas associated with gene changes.
    *Advanced (Stage III and Stage IV) melanomas
    *Advanced or recurrent basal or squamous cell carcinomas

How Can I Protect Myself?

You can stay protected by avoiding unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays, which means setting boundaries with the sun and opting out of indoor tanning.

The sun is always shining down, even on cloudy days. Its rays reflect off water, sand, snow, concrete, and glass. Accumulated exposure, which can show up as a tan or a sunburn, leaves you vulnerable to melanoma and other skin cancers. That’s why practicing safe sun is important year-round.

Sun-dappled view of classic Southern gazebo set amongst a canopy

Seek shade from 10 am to 4 pm, when sunrays are the strongest.

Woman applying sunscreen

Wear a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with SPF 15+ every day, every season.

Friends playing beach volleyball

During extended outdoor activity, wear a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with SPF 30+, and reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.

A woman in long sleeves and hat sitting on a bench

Cover up with clothing—look for the UPF label, which indicates the fraction of UV rays able to reach your skin.

Young blondy girl in sunglasses and straw hat at the beach

Don’t neglect your eyes! Wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat.

Woman sunbathing in solarium

AVOID TANNING BEDS — using a tanning bed before you’re 35 increases your melanoma risk by 75%!

Sleeping baby

Keep infants younger than 6 months out of the sun.

Young mother applying sunscreen on her daughter

Apply sunscreen for sensitive skins to children 6 months and older.

Woman using magnifying glass to examine her moles skin

Check your skin every month for new or unusual growths or discolorations.

See a dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam.


The Most Dangerous of Them All

Melanoma may be more rare than basal and squamous cell cancers, but it is also the most aggressive, spreading rapidly to other organs if not treated quickly. Check out this video to learn more about melanoma, including your risk and how to keep yourself safe.

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