About Skin Cancer Center at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers. It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin cancer every year.” The sooner preventative measures are taken the better your chances are it won’t spread.
Recognizing the Different Types of Skin Cancer:
Skin cancer is not reserved just for those who spend weeks in tanning salons. In fact, many types of skin cancers develop as a result of cumulative sun exposure. Even those times when you were barely sun burned can be damaging.
Named to reflect the layer of the dermis and types of skin cells they affect, the carcinomas are easily treatable and rarely advance into a state dangerous to your health. Melanoma, however, should be taken care of immediately because once it spreads it could lead to serious complications. Skin biopsies, such as mole removal, are the only way to truly diagnose a potentially cancerous portion of your skin.
Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) uses an application of a photosensitizer which, combined with the right wavelength of light, destroys tissue. The photosensitizer stays in the cancerous and precancerous cells longer than healthy skin cells. When the photosensitizing agent has left normal body cells, exposure to the light causes the precancerous or cancerous cells to be destroyed. Although this is a medical procedure, there is some cosmetic benefit to the treated area. Sometimes a laser may be used as the light source to provide additional cosmetic benefit.
Topical Chemotherapy usually comes in the form of a cream or lotion that is placed directly on the skin one or two times a day for several weeks. For basal cell carcinomas affecting only the top layer of skin, a prescription drug called imiquimod is recommended. Alternately, a drug called 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) may be used topically or injected.
Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen and the extreme cold it produces to destroy abnormal tissue and skin lesions. Cryosurgery is applied directly on the skin and is used to treat basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Cryosurgery is also effective in the treatment of pre-cancerous skin growths like actinic keratosis.
Mohs Skin Cancer Surgery is the most technically advanced treatment for skin cancer and is effective in the treatment of melanoma. In Mohs surgery, physicians remove the lesion layer by layer. This accurate, micrographically controlled procedure is meant to completely remove the cancerous tissue without harming the surrounding tissue. Mohs surgery is the most precise and effective method for removing problem areas and is especially effective for removing tissue on sensitive areas, like the face, with little chance of regrowth and disfigurement.
Laser Treatments can be used to treat certain types of skin cancer in lieu of cryosurgery. The best treatment plan for each individual patient will be decided by our board certified dermatologists.
Spot Treatments vs. Field Therapy
Patients may have only a few cancerous or precancerous lesions, or there may be numerous ones in a single area, which is called field cancerization. For patients with a single or a few precancers, cryotherapy or spot treatment with topically applied medicines are commonly used. For patients with a single or few cancers, Mohs skin cancer removal surgery, excision, and laser skin cancer removal are frequently chosen. For patients with field cancerization, treating all the cancers or precancers with photodynamic therapy (PDT) or using field therapy with a topically applied medicine may be a better strategy. This can be followed with individual lesion treatment if needed.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells that generally appears on sun-exposed areas of the skin. Due to mutations in DNA, skin cells grow at an abnormally rapid rate and form a mass of cancerous cells. As the most common form of cancer in the United States and more than 2 million diagnoses annually, skin cancer damage is caused by the skins exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight, commercial tanning beds and lamps. Skin cancer can also develop on non-UV ray exposed skin with contributing factors being toxic substance exposure or a weakened immune system.
Can skin cancer be prevented?
Most skin cancer develops as a result of uncontrolled replication of damaged skin cells. Typically, the cells’ DNA becomes damaged in response to UV exposure. Therefore, the best way to limit the likelihood that you will develop skin cancer is to prevent sun damage by wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that protects against sunburn from both UVA and UVB rays.
Those with fair skin that burn easily should avoid sun exposure whenever possible and cover up with long-sleeved shirts and hats when outdoors. The second most important skin cancer prevention method is to receive an annual skin cancer body check.
During a skin cancer body check one of DAA’s board-certified dermatologists will scrupulously evaluate sun-exposed areas of skin as well as any areas of concern to look for questionable markings. Since not all skin cancer follows the physical symptoms listed above, it’s important that you do regularly seek skin cancer screenings by a dermatologist who knows what to look for.
What are pre-cancers signs that could lead to skin cancer?
Actinic keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a pre-cancerous condition of damaged skin that could eventually lead to squamous cell carcinoma. It is marked by thick, scaly patches of skin that can eventually grow to be bumpy, tough and wart-like. Actinic keratosis is most common in fair skinned people and happens most frequently in sun-exposed areas of the body (face, neck and forearms). Since actinic keratosis can eventually become cancerous, if you suspect it somewhere on your body, you should see a dermatologist as soon as possible.
Other forms of keratosis include keratosis pilaris, often referred to as “chicken skin” for the bumpy texture on hair follicles and seborrheic keratosis, noncancerous skin growths that come with advancing age and can be treated by our board certified dermatologists.
Can my Mohs surgery take place at DAA?
As a dermatology office that has served the Atlanta area for nearly 40 years and aims to help our patients with all their skin care needs—head to toe—DAA is an excellent facility for Mohs surgery. Dr. Scott Karempelis and Dr. Joseph Payne are well-renowned Mohs surgeons who have performed a total of more than 10,000 Mohs procedures. Our on-site surgical suite, equipped with the latest technology for Mohs surgery and other dermatological procedures, provides a safe and comforting environment.
Can age spots lead to skin cancer?
While some forms of skin lesions share resemblances to age spots, they cannot lead to the development of skin cancer. It is recommended patients monitor new skin spots that develop and have them examined by a board-certified dermatologist to make sure newly developed skin spots are not cancerous.
Disclaimer: Skin cancer is a very serious condition and should ultimately be diagnosed and confirmed by a board certified dermatologist!