Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
Non-melanoma skin cancer is a dangerous form of skin cancer that begins in the cells of the skin. There are several types of non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Depending on the type of skin cancer, the treatment usually involves surgery to remove the cancer cells.
Types of Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
For each of the types of non-melanoma cancers, there are low-risk and high-risk occurrences. Specific treatments will be based on the level of risk for recurrence.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a non-melanoma skin cancer. It the most common form of cancer and makes up approximately 80 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers. Risk factors include having grey, green, or blue eyes, freckled or light skin, red or blonde hair, multiple moles, over-exposure to radiation such as x-rays, a family history of BCCs, extended daily sun exposure, and serious sunburns early in life.
Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma
The skin may appear flat or slightly raised as a skin growth or a bump that may look light pink or white with a waxy or pearly appearance, or as a dark or lighter flesh tone.
Treatments for Basal Cell Carcinoma
Most BCCs are treated with one of the following localized procedures:
- Mohs surgery
- Excisional surgery
- Radiation therapy
- Photodynamic therapy (light)
- Topical therapies
- Cryosurgery (killing cancer cells by freezing them)
- Electrodesiccation (using electricity to scrape cancer cells away)
Advanced Basal Cell Carcinoma Treatment
On rare occasions, BCC might continue to grow despite surgery and radiation therapy. Even rarer, BCCs can metastasize to other parts of the body, such as the lungs. If this occurs, more advanced treatment is required such as medical treatment, vismodegib (Erivedge), which is approved by the FDA. Given the rarity of distantly metastatic or locally advanced BCC, it is important to have this condition managed by an experienced, multidisciplinary team.
Squamous cell carcinoma is one of the most common forms of skin cancer that accounts for approximately 20 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma can appear on healthy skin or on skin that has been inflamed or injured. Risk factors for squamous cell carcinoma include having green or blue eyes, red or blonde hair, light-colored skin, extended daily sun exposure, and a number of serious sunburns early in life.
Signs of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The primary symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma are a bump that grows and may have a scaly surface, and patches of red that appear on the face, neck, ears, arm, or hands. A squamous cell carcinoma may also appear as a sore that does not heal or as a change to a mole or wart.
Treatments for Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Over 95 percent of squamous cell carcinoma cases are effectively treated by your doctor by surgically removing the cancerous tissue. One such procedure is Mohs surgery.
Advanced Treatment for Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Chemotherapy is an option if your squamous cell carcinoma cannot be treated surgically. Advanced squamous cell carcinoma is rare and must be managed by your experienced medical team.