More than 500,000 new cases are reported each year, and the incidence is rising faster than any other type of cancer. While skin cancers can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent appear on the face, head, or neck, where they can be disfiguring as well as dangerous. Types Of Skin Cancer By far the most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Fortunately, it's also the least dangerous kind--it tends to grow slowly, and rarely spreads beyond its original site. Though basal cell carcinoma is seldom life-threatening, if left untreated it can grow deep beneath the skin and into the underlying tissue and bone, causing serious damage (particularly if it's located near the eye). Squamous cell carcinoma is the next most common kind of skin cancer, frequently appearing on the lips, face, or ears. It sometimes spreads to distant sites, including lymph nodes and internal organs. Squamous cell carcinoma can become life threatening if it's not treated. A third form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is the least common, but its incidence is increasing rapidly, especially in the Sunbelt states. Malignant melanoma is also the most dangerous type of skin cancer. If discovered early enough, it can be completely cured. If it's not treated quickly, however, malignant melanoma may spread throughout the body and is often deadly. Other Skin Growths You Should Know About Two other common types of skin growths are moles and keratoses. Moles are clusters of heavily pigmented skin cells, either flat or raised above the skin surface. While most pose no danger, some-particularly large moles present at birth, or those with mottled colors and poorly defined borders-may develop into malignant melanoma. Moles are frequently removed for cosmetic reasons, or because they're constantly irritated by clothing or jewelry (which can sometimes cause pre-cancerous changes). Solar or actinic keratoses are rough, red or brown, scaly patches on the skin. They are usually found on areas exposed to the sun, and sometimes develop into squamous cell cancer. Choosing A Doctor If you're concerned about skin cancer, your family physician is a good place to start. He or she should examine your skin at your annual physical, and can refer you to a specialist if necessary. If you notice an unusual growth yourself, consult a plastic surgeon or a dermatologist. Both are skilled at diagnosing and treating skin cancer and other skin growths. A plastic surgeon can surgically remove the growth in a manner that maintains function and offers the most pleasing final appearance- a consideration that may be especially important if the cancer is in a highly visible area. If a treatment other than surgical excision is called for, the plastic surgeon can refer you to the appropriate specialist.
Explore the variety of options we provide for facial procedures.