View all »

Skin Cancer Awareness

By Bernard I. Raskin, MD

There are types of minor skin cancers, and one major type. The minor skin cancers are known as Basal Cell and Squamous Cell cancers. The major skin cancer is Melanoma. Almost all skin cancers are due to sun exposure.

Basal Cell is the most common type of skin cancer, and approximately 2 million people develop one each year. People who get one basal cell cancer are more prone to develop additional ones. These occur on any sun exposed area, although they can occasionally develop on non sun exposed regions. They are felt to be related to sun exposure that occurred many years ago. They have characteristic qualities of a pearly bump with tiny blood vessels on it, but are often less obvious so biopsies are often necessary. Basal Cell won’t metastasize, but it grows locally and sends out roots into the tissue under the skin.

Squamous Cell Cancer is less common. This cancer increases in frequency with increasing sunlight over your lifetime. That means the sunlight you get today or tomorrow contributes to new cancers. Therefore, avoiding sunlight reduces your risk of squamous cell cancer developing. In Australia a study showed that people who begin regularly wearing sunscreens and avoiding sunlight had 60% fewer skin cancers over the next five years compared to people who didn’t change their habits. So squamous cell carcinoma risks can be reduced at any age by preventing sunlight. That is good because squamous carcinoma can occasionally metastasize.

Melanoma is the major skin cancer. It too is seen more frequently in sunny climates or with an individual history of significant sun exposure. Caught early it is almost 100% curable, but caught after it has developed roots, and the cure rate drops to 30%. A person dies in the US about every 8 or 10 minutes from melanoma (36,000 deaths per year). This makes melanoma one of the top several skin cancers causing death, and most of the deaths are preventable especially if the diagnosis is made early.

For more information regarding skin cancer awareness please contact Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Care at 661.254.3686 or visit