Skin Cancer and Growths

Our physicians are experts in diagnosing and treating most skin cancers. We routinely offer biopsies of growths, often on the same day as they are noticed. We are happy to remove unwanted moles, skin tags, seborrheic keratosis, cherry angiomas, or other benign growths. We take pride in offering prompt appointments for the treatment of any worrisome growth or cancer.

There are several types of skin cancer that can affect your skin. For all of these, sun exposure is your greatest risk factor.

Melanomas and Non Melanoma Skin Cancers

Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer that arises from pigment producing cells called melanocytes. The majority of melanomas are dark in color, but they can also be skin-colored. A changing or (E) evolving spot is the most important criteria for a possible skin cancer. Other factors in diagnosing melanoma type skin cancer are ABCD.

  • Asymmetry – uneven halves
  • Border Irregularity– irregular or jagged border
  • Color variation– different colors
  • Diameter – larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser (greater than 6mm's)
  • Evolution – change in color, shape or size over time

How are melanomas and non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed?

A changing or (E) evolving spot is the most important criteria for a possible skin cancer. Other factors in diagnosing melanoma type skin cancer are ABCD. This is the exam that you can do at home and that your dermatologist can help with.
Additionally, dermatologists have other tools they use to diagnose skin cancers and often they can use these tools to catch skin cancers before they start to have features or display the ABCD's of melanoma. The most commonly used and helpful tool is a dermoscope. Dermatologists that are trained in dermoscopy have considerably improved sensitivity (detection of melanomas) as well as specificity (percentage of non-melanomas correctly diagnosed as benign), compared with naked eye examination.

How common is skin cancer and how dangerous?

Skin cancers are more commonly diagnosed yearly than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. Melanoma is the deadliest of all the skin cancers and the most preventable type of cancer. If caught early the prognosis is very good but if caught late by the time we see all the criteria of the ABCDE it can be fatal.

What is a dermatoscope?

A dermatoscope is a hand held polarized light magnifier that enables one to look at skin up to 10mm in depth. This tool enables your dermatologist to diagnose not only melanoma early but all forms of skin cancer and pre-cancers. Dermatoscopes can also be used to properly monitor moles to avoid biopsies of suspicous appearing benign spots.

What are the treatments available for skin cancers and melanomas as well as pre-cancers?

The gold standard for all skin cancers is surgery. Melanoma is cut out and non-melanoma skin cancers on cosmetically difficult to treat areas can be excised using Moh's surgery. Other options that are currently be investigated here at Mount Sinai Faculty Practice are various creams, lasers and other less invasive ways to treat non-melanoma skin cancers and pre-cancerous growths.

Squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer characterized by skin color changes, peeling, bleeding, crusting, and ulceration. This type of skin cancer occurs usually on skin damaged by long-term exposure to sun.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. There are several different subtypes of BCCs. The two that patients should be most concerned about are nodular BCCs and superficial BCCs. Nodular BCCs have rolled borders and can sometimes bleed without trauma. Superficial BCCs look like flat red patches. The treatment approach to BCCs will depend on the size and subtypes of the cancer as well as its location. BCC has a very low risk of metastasis.

Merkel cell carcinoma, also called neuroendocrine carcinoma, is a very rare form of skin cancer that usually arises on sun-exposed skin. This type of skin cancer arises from uncontrolled growth of a certain type of cells close to nerve fibers called Merkel cells and tends to grow quickly and may spread if not treated in a timely manner.