Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, affecting more Americans each year than breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer combined. Skin cancer is  essentially the abnormal growth of skin cells that multiply and form malignant tumors, often as a result of genetic defects or exposure to ultraviolet radiation.   The three main types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas, as well as a variety of other types that are much less common and account for no more than one percent of all skin cancers.

Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas typically occur in areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck and hands, while melanoma typically occurs around the chest, back, and legs. In rare cases melanoma may develop near the eyes or even in the internal organs.  Accounting for approximately 75% of all cancer cases, melanoma is the most common cancer in the world. It is one of the most preventable and treatable with early detection, but it’s considered a major health concern that affects people worldwide. While the disease strikes people of all ages, most cases are diagnosed in people ages 45 to 54, appearing more frequently in men than in women.

The risk of skin cancer has only been increasing in the past decade, as more people are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. With earlier detection and improved treatments from specialists like Dr. Daniel C. Allison, patients diagnosed with skin cancer can be effectively treated and live a long healthy life. Dr. Allison is one of the few Los Angeles orthopedic oncologists in the nation with advanced knowledge of melanoma’s warning signs, early detection, and treatment, catching the cancer before it spreads.

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Skin Cancer Overview

Invasive skin cancers represent a significant percentage of cancers overall and can be deadly if not properly treated. The extremities are a common location for invasive skin cancers like melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or Merkel cell carcinoma.

Risk Factors:

  • Fair skin
  • History of sunburn
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Excessive UV exposure
  • Weakened immune system
  • Presence of moles or unusual moles

With their intimate knowledge of extremity anatomy and function and depth of experience, orthopedic oncologists like Dr. Allison represent the ideal physician for the treatment of potentially harmful lesions.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Skin cancer typically appears on parts of the body which are over exposed to the sun, such as the back, legs, arms, and face. Many people don’t know that invasive skin cancer can also occur in areas that don’t receive much sun exposure including the soles of your feet, palms of your hands and fingernail beds. These occurrences tend to develop in people with darker skin.

The first signs and symptoms often are:

  • Appearance change in an existing mole
  • New pigmented or unusual-looking skin growth

Melanoma Skin Tumor Treatment Los AngelesSkin cancer isn’t exclusive to developing on moles as it can also occur on otherwise normal-appearing. Ask your doctor about a regular screening program for skin cancer and either have your doctor regularly check your skin or conduct your own at-home exams.

If you’re concerned about skin cancer and want to discuss your symptoms with an expert like Dr. Allison, your first appointment begins with discussing your medical history and physical evaluation of the lesion. A definitive diagnosis requires a biopsy. Proper biopsy technique is critical for staging the cancer. Most doctors select from one of three methods punch, excisional, or incisional. The type of biopsy depends upon the type and stage of the melanoma.

Staging

Determining the disease’s stage ensures a complete evaluation, determines prognosis, and guides treatment. Staging varies based on the type of cancer, but doctors generally look at the grade (activity), the size, and anatomic extent, and if it has spread to lymph nodes or distant organs (i.e. lungs).

Treatment

Treatment of invasive skin cancers usually involves surgical resection. Because of the loss of skin and soft tissue with the surgical resection, sometimes soft tissue coverage (plastic surgery) procedures are also needed, which can include:

  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Target therapy
  • Biological therapy
  • Prevention and Prognosis

The exact cause of skin cancer isn’t clear, but exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds increases the risk of developing melanoma. Limiting your exposure to UV radiation can help to reduce your risk of melanoma.

If caught at an early stage and properly treated, the prognosis of even the most aggressive skin cancers can be good. Delayed diagnosis or inadequate resections could result in problems.

Your chances of preventing skin cancer from developing increase if you follow these precautions:

  • Avoid midday sun
  • Wear sunscreen year-round
  • Wear protective clothing
  • Avoid tanning beds

The best prevention is to know your skin. Examine your skin regularly and look for changes to existing moles, bumps, birthmarks, and freckles and check for any new or unusual growths.

Learn more about skin cancer from skincancer.org.

Contact the Orthopedic Oncology Specialist

If you have noticed any suspicious growths or mole changes, Dr. Daniel Allison is a renowned orthopedic oncologist with broad experience diagnosing and treating extremity cancers. He is the ideal physician for the treatment of potentially dangerous tumors and metastatic bone disease. Call today to schedule an appointment at (310) 730-8008.

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Next, read about soft tissue sarcomas.

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