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Are there different types of skin cancer?

Yes, there are actually many different types of skin cancer. Depending on the type of skin cancer and its location on your body, there are several different ways to treat the skin cancer, including Mohs surgery. Our physicians at South End Dermatology & Skin Care are Board-certified Dermatologists, who have extensive training in treating all types of skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and is named after the basal layer cells of the skin. Basal cell carcinomas slowly enlarge and grow, but fortunately they do not usually spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body. As the basal cell carcinomas grow, they will invade and destroy structures in their paths. It is therefore important for these skin cancers to be treated as early as possible.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas are the second most common type of skin cancer, and are named after the squamous cell layer of the skin.  Squamous cell carcinomas slowly enlarge and grow, and they can rarely spread (metastasize) to distant parts of the body.  In addition, the squamous cell carcinomas will grow locally, destroying the normal skin in the process.  It is therefore important for these skin cancers to be treated as early as possible.

Melanoma Skin Cancer is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.  It is an overgrowth of the melanocytes, the pigment producing cells of the skin.  Melanomas usually appear as a brownish-black spot or bump on the skin that enlarges and sometimes bleeds; sometimes melanomas arise in moles that have been present for many years.  Melanoma is different from other types of skin cancer in that it has a risk of spreading (metastasizing) to distant areas of the body.  While many melanomas are considered “low risk”, melanoma can be deadly if not treated properly.  In most cases, melanomas should be removed with appropriate surgical margins. 

There are many different methods to treat these types of skin cancers, depending on their size, location, and histology.  The expert physicians at South End Dermatology & Skin Care are Board-certified Dermatologists who specialize in skin cancer and dermatologic surgery; we will discuss all of your treatment options, including Mohs surgery, excision (surgical removal) and immediate closure (suturing or sewing), curettage and electrodesiccation (scraping with a curette and burning with an electric needle), radiotherapy (X-ray), and topical chemotherapy (chemical destruction).  After we discuss these options with you, our expert physicians will help you determine the best method for treating your skin cancer.

Definitions

Actinic Keratosis
Also called solar keratosis. A non-malignant skin lesion that is red and scaly. Although an actinic keratosis is occasionally referred to a “premalignant,” it rarely ever becomes a true malignant tumor.

Benign Tumor
A non-cancerous growth that does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body.

Biopsy
The removal and microscopic examination of tissue from the body for purposes of diagnosis.

Cancer
A general term for many different diseases characterized by abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells. The resulting mass, or malignant tumor, can invade and destroy surrounding normal tissues. In addition, certain types of cancer can spread (metastasize) through the blood to start new cancers in other parts of the body.

Malignant Tumor
Cancer. A growth of cancer cells (see definition of cancer).

Metastasize
The spread of cancer through the blood or lymph vessels from one part of the body to another.