Skin Cancer

Prevention and Early Detection Are the Best Strategies

Millions of people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States, and the best way to protect against serious skin cancer is early detection and treatment, which yields a 99 percent success rate. When it comes to skin cancer, Albuquerque’s Western Dermatology Consultants is committed to helping patients by offering modern treatments that maximize long-term health while also minimizing their cosmetic impact.

One of the most effective treatments available today for skin cancer is Mohs micrographic surgery. With this method, the maximum amount of healthy tissue is preserved while ensuring that the skin cancer is completely removed. With this method the Mohs surgeon removes skin cancer by removing small amounts of normal skin as well the skin involved with cancer. This skin is examined under the microscope to evaluate if residual skin cancer remains and if so, where. The involved skin can then be removed further until the margins are clear.

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Skin cancer should be taken seriously. Regular check-ups help with early detection. The dermatologists at Western Dermatology consultants in Albuquerque are specially trained to use the Mohs technique to remove basal and squamous cell cancers. Appointments or an evaluation can be scheduled at 505-855-5503.

More About Skin Cancer

There are several common types of skin cancer, all of which involve unregulated cell growth due to cells being damaged. Excessive exposure to UV light, which comes from the sun and tanning beds alike, is the main cause of skin cancer, though other factors, such as genetics, also play a part.

Most skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanomas. The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, tends to grow slowly and only rarely spreads from its original site. Squamous cell carcinomas can behave more aggressively and tend to start in the top layer of the skin. Melanoma is particularly deadly but has a high cure rate if caught early enough. It can begin in a new mole or by changes in an existing mole.

At Western Dermatology Consultants, the physicians can remove basal and squamous cell carcinomas using the Mohs method. Melanoma requires other strategies that depend on a variety of factors, including how advanced the cancer is. Your dermatologist will work with you to explore options and recommend a course of action depending on the results of a biopsy.

Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection

While exposure to ultraviolet light is a major risk factor in developing melanoma, it is not the only factor. Patients who have a higher risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, tend to have one or more of the following traits:

  • fair skin
  • red hair
  • a history of sunburns, especially with blistering
  • a large number of moles
  • atypical moles
  • close family members (parents, siblings, or children) who developed melanoma

Considering how melanoma develops, there are two main strategies anyone can use to lower their risk of dealing with advanced forms of skin cancer.

First, physical protection against the sun is important. Though ultraviolet radiation is not the only risk factor for developing skin cancer, as noted above, it is a significant one. Anyone spending time outside should wear a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30—even on cloudy days. Sunscreen should be applied about 15 minutes before going outside, then reapplied every two hours spent under the sky. It should also be reapplied if washed off by sweat or water activities. Long sleeves, pants, close-toed shoes, and hats are very effective guards against UV exposure.

Secondly, yearly skin cancer checks from a dermatologist can help a professional spot possible signs of the disease and get confirmation early for the rapid start of treatment, if necessary. Your dermatologist may also photograph certain moles in order to have a visual record for comparison in future visits, to determine if the growth is changing over time.

Remember that you are the best first line of defense when it comes to spotting something amiss, since you are the most aware of how your skin looks and feels from day to day. Keep an eye on moles, as well as other developments that impact your skin. That way, during your skin check with a dermatologist, you can alert the doctor to any suspicious moles or other areas of concern.

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Our board-certified dermatologists will take the time necessary to understand your skincare goals, and present you with an array of options for amazing skin.

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Skin Cancer Signs to Watch For

Moles are typically non-cancerous (benign), but there are signs to watch for that can indicate a mole should be biopsied to check for cancer, since abnormal cells can form in existing moles, as well as in new moles that develop. These signs to watch for can be summed up as ABCDE:

  • A is for Asymmetrical. Moles are generally round and symmetrical, so a mole with an unusual shape should be examined.
  • B is for Border. Benign moles tend to have clearly defined edges, while the borders of moles of concern are less pronounced, or may have notches or a scalloped shape.
  • C is for Color. A mole should be uniform in color, typically in some range of brown, though there are a variety of shades and hues. Moles that have red, gray, or white areas, or that are especially dark, should be examined more closely, as should moles that are multi-colored.
  • D is for diameter. A general rule is that smaller moles are better. Anything larger than the size of a pencil eraser warrants a closer look from a dermatologist.
  • E is for Evolving. Once a mole develops, it should stay basically the same from month to month and year to year. Let a dermatologist know about any mole that is changing in size, shape, or color so it can be checked and potentially biopsied.

Moles that are painful or itchy can also be a warning sign.

While any of these signs can indicate cause for concern, they are not a guarantee of skin cancer. Treatment or further tests will only be recommended if initial test results indicate the presence of cancer cells.

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Physicians who use Mohs surgery must be specially trained in this technique. Call the doctors at Western Dermatology Consultants about treating skin cancer in Albuquerque. To schedule an appointment for a skin evaluation please call 505-855-5503.

More About Mohs for Skin Cancer

Before any surgery is scheduled, a patient will get a biopsy-proven skin cancer diagnosis and will be educated on the various treatment options available. Depending on the cancer, the stage of its advancement, its location, and other factors, potential treatments may include anything from topical treatments to radiation therapy to cryosurgery.

Patients who choose Mohs surgery will be treated by one of our dermatologists trained in this technique. She will remove the cancerous tissue level by level, examining slides made from the tissue to determine if residual skin cancer remains. This procedure is continued until no more skin cancer remains. Visit our Mohs page to learn more about this specific skin cancer treatment.