Skin cancer, by far the most common malignant tumor in humans, is an abnormal growth of cells that expand in an unpredictable pattern on the skin. The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma — each named for the particular skin cell from which it arises. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are commonly treated by Mohs micrographic surgery in our office. Other types of skin cancer can also be treated with Mohs surgery.
Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma begin as a single point in the upper layers of the skin and slowly enlarge, spreading along the surface and downward. These extensions cannot always be directly seen. The tumor often extends far beneath the surface of the skin. If not completely removed, both types of skin cancer may invade and destroy structures in their path.
Although these skin cancers are locally destructive, they do not tend to metastasize (spread) to distant parts of the body. Metastasis is extremely rare in basal cell carcinoma and usually occurs only with long-standing, large tumors. Squamous cell carcinoma is slightly more dangerous and patients must be observed for any spread of the tumor, although it is unlikely.
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Excessive exposure to sunlight is the single most important factor associated with the development of skin cancer. In addition, the tendency to develop these cancers appears hereditary in certain ethnic groups, especially those with fair complexions and poor tanning abilities. Fair-skinned people develop skin cancers more frequently than dark-skinned people and the more sun exposure they receive, the more likely they are to develop a skin cancer.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated?
There are several methods for treatment including excision (surgical removal), curettage and electrodessication (scraping and burning), X-ray therapy, cryosurgery (freezing), topical chemotherapy and Mohs micrographic surgery. The method chosen depends on the location of the cancer, its size, type and previous treatment.Back to Top