Early Detection Key to Cure for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers

Early Detection Key to Cure for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers 

Skin cancers are the most common form of cancer in the U.S., and non-melanoma skin cancers are the most common kinds, with studies indicating more than three million Americans are affected annually.

The two most frequently seen non-melanoma types are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), accounting for 80% of all skin cancers, and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), making up 16%.

Cells that make up your skin are called keratinocytes, and there are two kinds: squamous cells, and just below those the basal cells. The name of the cancer depends on which of these cells is involved. Skin cancer develops when something triggers a “damaged” cell to reproduce uncontrollably, until a mass is formed.

Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC)

When first developing, BCC often looks like a pink bump, similar to a pimple, but it doesn’t go away. It can also appear like a waxy bump, a flat and scar-like area, or a bleeding or scabbing sore that heals but keeps returning. With time, you may see spider veins in the growth.

BCCs usually grows slowly so it’s rare that one will spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). Early detection and treatment are necessary, however, for the best healing and prognosis.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC)

Also referred to as squamous cell cancers, SCCs may grow quickly and are more likely to metastasize than BCCs, especially when they are on the lip or ear and not treated in a timely manner. An SCC will often appear as a large, firm, pink bump and can be tender to the touch. Some form a depression in the center. Others can look like flat lesions with a crusty surface.



The areas of the skin that are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays are most often where skin cancer forms. The UV exposure might come from sunlight, tanning booths or phototherapy, and it may take decades for the damage to become evident. People with fair complexions are at greater risk of skin cancers because they’re more susceptible to UV-induced skin damage.

Areas of skin that are not exposed to sun can still develop non-melanoma skin cancers, so UV light isn’t the only cause. Genetics can play a part, as well.


If your Advanced Dermatology provider suspects a BCC or SCC, treatment will vary depending on the size and location of the lesion, and what the dermatopathologist sees under the microscope.


Treatment Options

A number of treatments are available, including traditional surgery, scraping, burning, freezing, radiation, photodynamic therapy and topical chemotherapy medications.

Photodynamic therapy is a form of phototherapy involving light and a photosensitizing chemical substance, to kill microbial cells, including bacteria, fungi and viruses. PDT is often used to treat the pre-cancerous lesions known as actinic keratoses (AK), and has been FDA-approved to treat them since 1999. It also may be used on some supeficial basal cell carcinomas. If you are a candidate for this treatment, your provider will discuss in more detail what you can expect from the treatment.


Mohs Micrographic Surgery

At Advanced Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery (ADCS), we offer all of these options including traditional surgical excision and Mohs micrographic surgery, an advanced treatment for specific types of skin cancer. Mohs offers the highest potential for a cure and minimizes the loss of healthy skin, while also minimizing the cosmetic impact of treatment in visible areas such as the nose, eyelid and lips.



It’s estimated about 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers are directly associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. (The majority of these from sun damage received by the time we were in our teens). You cannot undo the UV damage already done to your skin, but you can help prevent additional damage from occurring.

Decreasing your skin’s exposure to UV rays can decrease your risk of skin cancers. Use a sunscreen daily with at least an SPF 30 on any exposed skin and reapply at least every two hours (more often if you are sweating or going into the water). Seek shade and avoid the sun whenever possible. When in the sun cover as much skin as possible with long sleeves and pants and a wide-brimmed hat.

Early Detection

Non-melanoma cancers are highly curable when detected and treated early, so it’s important to have your Annual Total-Body Skin Cancer Examsm and to examine yourself for any changes or irregularities to moles and other spots regularly. If you have already had one non-melanoma skin cancer, you are at higher risk for developing another, even if you are very careful about sun protection on an ongoing basis in the future.

We offer comprehensive, advanced skin cancer diagnosis and treatment by board certified dermatologists, Mohs Surgeons, dermatopathologists and other experts, with immediate appointments available when needed.

Schedule a visit with one of our Advanced Dermatology experts annually or before if you see any skin changes that cause you concern.

Immediate appointments available at many of our 160+ Locations


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