Dermatology Diseases

Melanoma

Melanoma is a cancer which develops in the melanin producing cells, called melanocytes. Melanoma develops most often as a skin cancer, but can also form in the eye and rarely in the intestines. The most well known risk factors for melanoma include fair skin, a history of sunburn, excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, living close to the equator or at high elevation, abnormal moles, family history, and weakened immune system.

Symptoms of melanoma include change to an existing mole and development of a new skin pigment or growth. Some melanomas are hidden, in areas that are not exposed to the sun; this is more common in people with dark skin. Melanoma is most successfully treated when caught early, so it is important to check your skin for any unusual changes. Prevention methods such as avoiding midday sun, wearing sunscreen and/or protective clothing, and avoiding tanning beds can help reduce the risk of developing melanoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer which develops in the basal cells, the cells responsible for producing new skin cells as the old cells are shed. Warning signs include a sore that does not heal or bleeds and scabs repeatedly. It often appears as a wax-like bump, but can present in other forms including a flat, scaly, brown patch or a white, waxy scar. Basal cell carcinoma is most often found in high sun exposure areas of the skin including the face and neck.

Risk factors include long-term sun exposure, radiation exposure, arsenic exposure, fair skin, being male, over age 50, family history, certain hereditary syndromes, and weakened immune system. Steps to lower the risk of developing basal cell carcinoma include avoiding midday sun, using sunscreen and/or wearing protective clothing, avoiding tanning beds, and checking skin regularly for any abnormalities.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells, the flat, thin cells that make up the outer layer of the skin. Squamous cell carcinoma most commonly forms on skin that is exposed to the sun, such as the scalp, back of the hands, and ears, although it can occur anywhere on the body. Signs of squamous cell carcinoma include a firm, red nodule, a flat, scaly sore, and a new sore or raised area on an old sore or ulcer. Rough, red, scaly patches or sores may also develop on the lips, in the mouth, on or in the anus, or on the genitals.

There is an increased risk for squamous cell carcinoma for fair skin, excessive sun exposure, use of tanning beds, history of sunburn, history of precancerous skin lesions, history of skin cancer, weakened immune system and rare genetic disorders with a sensitivity to light. These risks can be lowered by avoiding midday sun, wearing sunscreen and/or protective clothing, avoiding tanning beds, and checking the skin regularly for any changes.

Dysplastic Nevus

Dysplastic nevi, or singular nevus, are atypical moles. They are commonly defined as moles that are larger than ¼ inch in diameter, irregular shape, and inconsistent color. Dysplastic nevi pose a greater risk of developing melanoma. While not all dysplastic nevi will develop into cancerous melanomas, studies show that about half of melanomas come from these atypical moles. Unusual moles are characterized by A for asymmetrical, B irregular border, C for changes in color, D for diameter and E for evolving.

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a sometimes pre-cancerous condition which presents with a rough, scaly patch of skin. It can also appear as a flat patch or bump on the top of the skin or as a hard wart-like abnormality, the color ranges from flesh colored to red or brown and may itch or burn. Actinic keratosis develops from years of sun and UV exposure, and is most commonly found on the face, lips, ears, back of hands, forearms, scalp, and neck. Actinic keratosis slowly grows and usually presents no other symptoms aside from the abnormal patch of skin.

There is a greater risk for developing actinic keratosis for a person with age greater than 40, sunny climate, history of frequent sun exposure or sunburn, pale skin, tendency to freckle, personal history of actinic keratosis or skin cancer, and/or a weak immune system. These risks can be reduced by avoiding midday sun, wearing sunscreen and/or protective clothing, and avoiding tanning beds. It is also important to check the skin regularly for any changes or abnormalities.