Skin Cancer Screening and exams
- Here at Pure Dermatology & Cosmetic Center, we recommend annual full-body skin evaluation in order to detect skin cancer or skin pre-cancers in all patients starting in the late teenage years. During these full-body skin exams, we discuss and look for the 3 main forms of skin cancer – Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, or Malignant Melanoma – the most lethal of the three. While Basal cells and Squamous cell skin cancers are common on chronically sun-exposed areas of the skin, Melanomas are related to “holiday burns” and tend to have a genetic predisposition. Since melanoma can be deadly, and the is the #1 cancer killer in women in their 20s, the key is early detection. Melanomas caught in the early stages (before spreading to lymph nodes) have an excellent survival of 95% after 5 years. In contrast, late detection can be catastrophic for both patients and their families.
- During your annual full-body skin examination, our providers will discuss the “ABCDEs” of melanoma and discuss how to detect them, safe sun-protective measures, and monthly self-skin assessments at home – All of which are recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
- Actinic keratosis (AKs), or skin precancers, are scaly growths that are typically pink dry and flaky on sun-exposed skin. They generally come and go with sun-exposure, and tend to affect people who are fair-skinned and live in sunny environments (like ours in Newport Beach California!). Most patients who develop AKs have a history of chronic sun exposure or frequent sunburns. These scaly DNA-damaged growths typically occur on areas repeatedly exposed to the sun, such as the face, tops of hands, V of chest and the balding scalp.
- The main concern over these spots is that they predispose affected patients to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), a skin cancer that if left untreated, may spread. Approximately 10% of AKs progress into a SCC, in particular with chronic sun exposure, specifically from UV B radiation. Because patients with AKs are sun damaged, they have a higher rate of developing not only SCCs, but Basal Cell Carcinomas (BCC), Melanomas, & other more rare forms of skin cancer such as Merkel cell carcinomas.
- We tend to use liquid nitrogen (LN2) to “freeze” the thick skin pre-cancers (AKs), but also know that the sun did not shine one UV ray to the skin cells of the AK, but also to the surrounding skin cells. That is why we often opt to treat our patients preventatively for their “background” non-hypertrophic AKs with “field treatment”, either in the form of a chemotherapy cream we prescribe to their pharmacy OR (and sometimes in addition) with an in-office light treatment called “PhotoDynamic Therapy” or PDT.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a more aggressive type of skin cancer than a Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), as it occasionally spreads to lymph nodes
SCC usually has a precursor lesion which is called: Actinic Keratosis. We treat AK’s a few different ways:
- Liquid Nitrogen to the lesions
- Chemotherapy Creams
- Salicylic Chemical Peels
- PDT (Photodynamic Therapy)
If the AK has turned into an SCC, we perform either Mohs surgery or an excision based on the area of the skin cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal Cell Carcinoma is a slow growing form of skin cancer that needs to be treated, not because it causes death (rare for BCCs) but because they can go down to bone and be damaging over a long period of time.
Usually treated with Mohs surgery by Dr. Nguyen in our office if on face, neck, tops of hands, pretibial (ie shins/lower legs) or in areas of severe sun damaged skin or if the spot is recurrent (previously treated and came back)
BCC’s are also treated with cutting it out (excision) by the provider who initially biopsied the spot or ED&C (electrodessication and curettage) by our PA if indicated.
Some cases can be treated with chemo creams (imiquimod or Efudex)
Melanoma is one of the most aggressive and life threatening types of skin cancers. Melanomas are mostly superficial and can be taken out by surgery as long as it’s treated in the early stages.
Melanomas typically have a precursor to them that can arise from otherwise normal-appearing skin. Some freckles or moles that start to change can be a sign of Melanoma.
ABCDE’s of Dermatology
These are the indicators to look out for if you have a suspicious mole or lesion on the body. If you fall into any of these categories, give our office a call so we can further examine the mole/lesion or perform a full body skin examination.
A: Asymmetry of shape and color
B: Border irregularity including smudgy or ill-defined margin
C: Color variation and Change
D: Different (formerly diameter)
E: Evolving (enlarging, changing)