One in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer over the course of their lifetimes. With early detection and treatment, however, most skin cancers are curable.
Dr. Byron Limmer is a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. He provides personalized, state-of-the-art care for his patients and is referred patients by highly respected physicians throughout South Texas.
What is skin cancer?
Early detection and treatment of skin cancer is essential both to prevent the disease from spreading to other areas of the body and to achieving better outcomes.
Research has shown that most skin cancers are detected by patients rather than doctors. Learning how to examine your own skin and allowing your physician to periodically help can promote skin health and also can dramatically reduce your risks of having significant problems with skin cancer.
An actinic keratosis (AK) is a rough, dry, or scaly patch or growth that appears on sun-exposed skin areas. They are usually red or pink but are sometimes flesh-colored or brownish. Most people have more than one and the plural is actinic keratoses. They are caused by exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet light) which causes cellular damage to skin cells called keratinocytes.
AKs are medically significant as they are considered to be the earliest stage in the development of some squamous cell carcinomas (type of skin cancer). They are therefore considered to be “precancerous.” Anyone who has AKs has sustained enough sun damage to make them more susceptible to all forms of skin cancer, including melanoma. Therefore anyone who has AKs should be under the care of a dermatologist.
There are many treatment options for AKs including cryosurgery (freezing), topical medications, photodynamic therapy (Blue-light) and others.
There are many different kinds of skin cancers, with each type being distinguished by the types of skin cells that are primarily affected. The three most common forms of skin cancer are:
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of sun-induced skin cancer. Over 2 million cases of these are diagnosed in the United States each year. Basal cell carcinomas usually appear on sun exposed skin including the face, scalp, ears, neck, chest, back, arms, and legs. Although they usually do not metastasize, they grow locally and may extend around nerves and other structures causing extensive local tissue damage. Most of these lesions are treated with excisional surgery (cutting out the cancer). Mohs surgery is the gold standard for removal of many of these lesions. Less aggressive tumors may be treated with cryosurgery (freezing), electrosurgery, or topical medication. Dr. Byron Limmer is a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. Approximately 700,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States. Ultraviolet light exposure is the primary risk factor for these cancers and they are generally found on sun exposed skin areas such as the face, scalp, ears, neck, chest, back, arms, and legs. Squamous cell carcinomas have the potential to metastasize. Surgical excision to remove the entire cancer is the usual treatment and Mohs surgery is the gold standard for removal of many of these lesions.
Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Approximately 120,000 cases of melanoma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Most melanomas are diagnosed as asymmetric, irregularly bordered, dark brown to black “moles.” Moles changing in size, shape, or color are especially concerning for possible melanoma. They most commonly occur on the legs of women or trunk of men, however they may occur anywhere on the body. Early detection and surgical removal are the standard of care for melanoma. The vast majority of melanomas can be treated with simple surgical excision. More invasive melanomas may benefit from removal and evaluation of a sentinel lymph node, and treatment per an oncologist. Regular skin exams done by both the patient and physician allow for early diagnosis and better prognosis.
If you have a new or existing skin concern, call today to schedule an appointment.