Skin Cancer

Sean-Doherty-MD-Boston-amp-amp-amp-amp-amp-amp-Concord-MA-Skin-CancerSkin cancer is currently one of the most prevalent of all cancers for Americans.  The Skin Cancer Foundation states that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life. It is the most common cancer in the world today, and it is increasing at an epidemic rate.

Malignant melanoma

Malignant melanoma is a serious skin cancer that arises in moles or in some vulnerable cells of the skin. In most cases, it is easily treated in its early stages. In later stages, malignant melanoma has the possibility of metastasizing (spreads) to other organs of the body. It is at these later stages of development that treatment is very difficult and not always successful.

People at high risk of developing the disease are those who have:

  • family history of melanoma, or who have had a melanoma themselves in the past
  • unusual moles on the skin, or dramatically changing moles
  • fair skin, light hair and eye color, and who sunburn easily or tan with difficulty
  • a record of painful or blistering sunburns as children or teenagers

Following the ABC’s of melanoma can help make it easy to evaluate and follow moles or other areas on the skin that may seem different from other areas.

Asymmetry— when one half of the mole is unlike the other half.

Border irregularity — when the perimeter or outer edge of a mole is irregular somewhere along the border.

Color variation — when there are difference in the color within the mole itself. Shades of tan, white, brown black white red or even blue should be noted.

Diameter — when the mole is larger than 6mm (size of a pencil eraser).

Please contact Dr. Doherty to set up a consultation for a skin evaluation and discuss any skin changes that might be concerning to you.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer in the United States. It affects about 800,000 Americans each year.

The major cause of Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is chronic exposure to sunlight. BCC’s are most commonly found on exposed parts of the body such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back.

Although anyone with a history of sun exposure can develop BCC, patients at highest risk are those with fair skin, blond or red hair, and blue, green, or grey eyes.

When removed promptly, BCC’s are easily treated in their early stages. With larger BCC’s more extensive treatments may be needed. Although this type of skin cancer hardly ever metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body, it can damage surrounding tissue. This is why BCC’s should be removed as early as possible.

Please contact Dr. Doherty to set up a consultation for a skin evaluation.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) affects about 100,000 Americans each year and is the second most common of all skin cancers. The major cause of SCC is chronic exposure to sunlight.  SCC’s are most commonly found on exposed parts of the body such as the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back.

Although any patient with a history of sun exposure can develop SCC, people at highest risk are those with fair skin, blond or red hair, and blue, green, or grey eyes.

People with dark skin, are less likely than those with fair skin to develop skin cancer. More than two thirds of the skin cancers that do develop in dark-skinned individuals, however, are SCC’s.

When removed early, SCC’s are easily treated. The larger the tumor, more extensive treatments may be needed. Although this skin cancer rarely metastasizes (spreads) to other part of the body, it still may, like BCC.

For more information about SCC or for a skin evaluation, please contact Dr. Doherty at his Boston or Concord office.

Actinic Keratosis

An actinic keratosis (AK) is a scaly or crusty bump that arises on the surface of the skin. While the scale or crust may be dry and rough, these lesions are often easier to feel than to see. The base of the area may be light or dark, tan, pink, red, a combination of these colors, or even the same color as the skin. Sometimes AK’s itch or can be tender to the touch.

AK’s are most likely to appear on exposed skin such as the face, ears, bald scalp, neck, backs of hands and forearms, and lips. These skin changes can develop slowly and can become larger. Once an AK occurs, it may disappear. It will, however, likely reappear later. AK’s rarely develop alone, and they are often seen several at a time throughout the sun exposed parts of the body.

What causes an Actinic Keratosis?

  • Sun exposure is the cause of almost all AK’s. Sun damage to the skin accumulates over time.
  • Actinic keratosis can be the first step in the development of skin cancer. It is considered a pre-cancer.
  • Up to 10 percent of active lesions can progress to squamous cell carcinomas (SCC).
  • SCC’s are usually not life threatening. If not treated however, SCC’s can grow large and invade the surrounding.
  • AK’s can be an indicator that sun damage has occurred and that any kind of skin cancer – not just SCC – may develop.

Who is at risk?

  • People who have fair skin, blonde or red hair, blue, green, or gray eyes are at the greatest risk for developing a skin cancer. Because their skin has less protective pigment, these patients are the most susceptible to sunburn. Even patients who are darker-skinned can develop keratoses if they expose themselves to the sun without skin protection.
  • One in six people will develop an AK in their lifetime.
  • Older patients are more likely than younger ones to have AK’s.
  • Keratoses may appear in patients in their early twenties who have spent a significant amount of time in the sun with little or no protection.

Treatment of AK’s

Several effective treatments for removing actinic keratoses exist. Not all keratoses need to be removed. The decision on whether and how to treat is based on the nature of the AK, a patient’s age and their health.

Actinic Keratoses are signs of things to come. If you have a question about a specific area on your skin, please contact Dr. Doherty at his Boston or Concord office to schedule an appointment.

In most cases, medical insurance covers consultations and treatment for actinic keratoses, basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and melanomas. Please contact Dr. Doherty’s office with any questions. The office would be happy to help with any questions regarding any skin cancer care.