Treatment for Skin Cancer in The Woodlands – Anthony J. Perri, M.D.
When you take a look at skin cancer in the U.S. by the numbers, you might find yourself a little worried at what you see. Every year, over 5 million Americans are treated for skin cancer, with over 2 million of those being newly diagnosed cases. It is, by far, the most prevalent form of cancer, eclipsing the total number of new diagnoses for breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer combined, and it’s estimated that one in every five Americans will develop a form of skin cancer in their lifetime.
What’s even more startling is that skin cancer appears to be on the rise – treatment for non-melanoma skin cancers increased nearly 77% between 1992 and 2006, and squamous cell carcinoma in particular has seen increases of up to 200% over the last 30 years. With statistics like these, it’s no surprise to see growing concerns over skin cancer in The Woodlands and Conroe. Thankfully, Dr. Perri and the staff at Perri Dermatology are knowledgeable, experienced, and ready to help protect you against this disease.
What is Skin Cancer?
The Woodlands and Conroe residents often ask Dr. Perri to explain skin cancer. Simply defined, it is the abnormal growth of skin cells. When errors (mutations) occur in the DNA of cells, they can begin to grow out of control, forming masses of cancer cells. There are three main types of skin cancer and several other less common types, including:
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cells sit just beneath the outer surface of the skin and function as its inner lining. Cancer in these cells can appear as a firm red nodule, a scaly growth that develops a crust or bleeds, or a sore that doesn’t heal. This type occurs most frequently on the forehead, nose, ears, lower lip, hands, and other sun-exposed areas of the body.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma: Basal cells, which are responsible for the production of new skin cells, sit just beneath the squamous cells. Cancer in these cells can present as a bump or growth that is flesh-colored or brown, white or light pink, pearly or waxy. This type can also appear just slightly raised or even flat, making it difficult to distinguish from normal skin early on.
- Melanoma: Melanocytes, from which this cancer type gets its name, reside in the lower part of the epidermis and are responsible for producing melanin, the pigment that colors your skin. Melanoma often appears in moles or areas of skin that are pigmented differently from surrounding skin. Melanoma is also one of the most deadly forms of skin cancer, accounting for more than 75% of skin cancer related deaths.
- Less Common Types: Other, rarer types of skin cancer include Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually discovered on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms and legs, but often spreads to other parts of the body; sebaceous gland carcinoma, which originates in the skin’s oil glands; and Kaposi’s sarcoma, which is mostly seen in people with weakened immune systems.
Causes and Risk Factors
Living in Texas, being in the sun is just part of life, but it also creates even greater risk for residents of The Woodlands and Conroe. The number one cause of skin cancer is prolonged exposure to sunlight and the UV rays it carries, so needless to say, protecting yourself with sunscreen and protective clothing when out in the sun is a must. Still, this doesn’t explain cancers that develop in areas of skin not normally exposed to the sun. A number of other risk factors are believe to contribute to your likelihood of developing the disease:
- Fair Skin: People with fair skin have less melanin to protect against UV radiation.
- History of Sunburns: Harsh sunburns, particularly during youth can increase your chances of developing skin cancer.
- Tanning: A tan is actually your skin’s injury response to excessive UV radiation; any tanning, including tanning beds, can increase your risk of skin cancer.
- High-altitude Climates: Living at higher altitudes means being closer to the sun, thus exposing you to more UV radiation.
- Moles and Pre-cancerous Lesions: Having large/irregular moles or lesions known as actinic keratosis can increase your risk.
- Family/Personal History of Skin Cancer: If you have a history of skin cancer in your family or have had skin cancer yourself, you have increased risk to develop another skin cancer or have a reoccurrence of the original cancer.
- Weakened Immune System: People with weakened immune systems due to illness or immunosuppressing drugs such as those used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS are at greater risk
- Exposure to Radiation and Certain Substances: Radiation treatments for other skin conditions like eczema and acne and exposure to substances such as arsenic can increase your risk of skin cancer
Early Detection and Treatment
With skin cancer diagnosis, even a few weeks can make a huge difference. Regular skin checks at home are your first line of defense, but scheduling skin checks with Dr. Perri and his Physician Assistants at least annually is also important. We can often identify pre-cancerous signs before they become obvious to the untrained eye.
We understand it can be difficult to set aside time for an appointment, so we have two convenient locations that offer flexible weekday hours to accommodate your schedule. If you think you might have skin cancer, don’t hesitate to call us right away. We’re here to help!
Concerned you might be showing signs of skin cancer? The Woodlands and Conroe dermatologist Dr. Anthony J. Perri can help. Call today for your appointment: The Woodlands – 281.943.2749 Conroe – 936.522.4966