Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States accounting for more cases of cancer than all other kinds of cancer. Skin cancer occurs when skin cells grow out of control. Damage from (ultraviolet) light from the sun or from tanning beds leads to most cases of skin cancer.

The 3 most common types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma.

  • Basal cell: is most common type of skin cancer

            Located:  sun exposed areas

            Looks like:  pearly small bumps; red or scaly patches

            Symptoms: can bleed, crust and not heal

  • Squamous cell:  2nd most common type of skin cancer

            Located:  sun exposed areas but can also appear within scars, chronic skin sores and the genital area

            Looks like: red, scaly patches or bumps

            Symptoms:  can be painful

  • Melanoma:  least common type of skin cancer but most dangerous

            Located:  entire body; in men most common on the chest, abdomen, or back; in women, most common on the lower legs.

            Looks like:  most likely to appear as a new spot on normal appearing skin; only about a third develop from pre-existing moles

 Look for ABCDE’s of skin cancer: 

Asymmetry, irregular Borders, more than one or uneven distribution (display) of Color, or a large (greater than 6mm) Diameter. Finally, pay attention to the Evolution (changes) of your moles - check your skin monthly for changes.

Skin cancer can be prevented by avoiding excessive ultraviolet light exposure and by wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least a SPF of 30 and protective clothing.

If you have a lesion (area) of concern on your skin it is important to contact your primary care clinician immediately for a skin exam. If appropriate, a referral to Dermatology will be placed. You will then see an experienced member of the Dermatology team.

You may request a skin cancer screening appointment in Dermatology that does not require a referral if you do not have a previous history of skin cancer nor a lesion (area) of concern. These appointments are 5 minutes in length and other dermatologic (skin) issues will not be discussed at this visit. You may call the Dermatology Department, 203-432-0092 to make a skin cancer screening appointment.