Skin Cancer Treatment in Baton Rouge
Our board certified dermatologists in Baton Rouge specialize in the treatment of skin cancer.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer—the uncontrolled growth or proliferation of abnormal skin cells—occurs when damaged or mutated skin cells multiply, resulting in malignant tumors. Skin cells can become susceptible to damage in a number of ways, including a weakened immune system or a family history of skin cancer, but the most common risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning beds.
The three main types of skin cancer include:
- Squamous cell carcinomas – skin cancer affecting the skin’s squamous cells. These are the cells in the outer part of the epidermis (i.e. the top layer of skin).
- Basal cell carcinomas – skin cancer affecting the skin’s basal cells. These are the cells in the lower part of the epidermis.
- Melanomas – skin cancer that begins in the skin’s melanocyte cells. These are the cells that protect deeper layers of the skin from UV exposure by making melanin, a brown pigment that often causes the skin to tan or darken. Melanoma skin cancer can also be called malignant melanoma and cutaneous melanoma.
While all three types of skin cancer are malignant, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma both fall into the nonmelanomas group, a classification that is generally less aggressive and slower to metastasize, or spread, than melanoma skin cancer. If you are concerned about skin cancer, schedule an appointment with our Baton Rouge dermatologists today.
How common is skin cancer?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with an estimated one in five Americans expected to develop skin cancer during the course of his or her life. Of the three main types of skin cancer—squamous cell carcinomas, basal cell carcinomas and melanomas—basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, both nonmelanomas, are by far the most common. Together, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more common than any other form of cancer.
While there are many other types of skin cancer, they are much less common and account for less than 1% of all skin cancers. Other, less common, forms of skin cancer include:
- Kaposi sarcoma – caused by a virus called the Kaposi sarcoma-associated virus, this type of skin cancer often affects people with weakened immune systems
- Merkel cell carcinoma – this type of skin cancer is caused when the skin’s Merkel cells grow rapidly
- Cutaneous skin lymphoma – also called non-Hodgkin lymphoma or skin lymphoma, this skin cancer starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes and may cause skin redness or tumors
- Sebaceous gland carcinoma – most often affecting the eyelid, this type of skin cancer begins as a lump in the skin’s oil glands
Though skin cancer is most common among those with fair skin and a history of sun exposure, it is possible for anyone—regardless of skin tone, age, gender or even history of sunburns—to develop skin cancer. Even teenagers and young children may be at risk. If you suspect that you may have skin cancer, we recommend that you schedule a visit with your dermatologist as soon as possible. Different forms of skin cancer require different treatment methods, so it’s important that your skin concern is quickly and correctly diagnosed.
How do you get skin cancer?
Sun damage is the number one cause of skin cancer, but it is possible to develop skin cancer in areas not ordinarily exposed to sunlight, including the bottoms of your feet, under the nails, the scalp, underarms, genitals and between your buttocks. Generally, those with naturally darker skin are at less risk of skin cancer, since their greater amounts of melanin often offers additional protection. However, even people of color can develop skin cancer from UV damage.
Certain forms of skin cancer may be caused by factors other than UV rays, including medical conditions or environment factors that can damage DNA. Some of the most common potential risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Family history of skin cancer
- Personal history of skin cancer
- Previous radiotherapy treatment
- Excessive or prolonged exposure to sunlight
- History of using tanning beds
- Using UV lamps to harden gel manicures
- Repeated or severe sunburns
- Exposure to certain toxic chemicals
- Dysplastic nevi, or abnormal moles
- Weakened immune system
- Receiving a solid organ transplant
- Having a fair complexion, freckles or red hair
- Hereditary conditions, including Gorlin syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum (XP)
To protect yourself from sun damage, our Sanova Dermatology physicians recommend wearing sunscreen year-round, limiting sun exposure during the middle of the day, and avoiding tanning beds and UV lamps. If you’re taking a medication that makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight, it’s important that you take extra precautions, such as wearing UV-protective clothing and sunglasses, to protect your skin. Above all, it’s important that you perform regular skin self-examinations and report any new skin growths or changes in existing growths or moles to your dermatologist.
How to detect cancer early
Skin cancer is very common and very serious; but if you spot it and treat it early, you have a good chance of curing it. To ensure that you spot it early, we recommend a two-pronged approach of monthly head-to-toe self-examinations of your skin and mouth, and annual examinations by an experienced dermatologist. Performed regularly, self-examinations can inform you of suspicious and possibly cancerous developments, while professional dermatological exams may utilize advanced technologies (including mole mapping) to screen and track your moles and can offer a more thorough and informed evaluation.
How to perform a thorough head-to-toe self-skin examination
- What to check for:
- Check your skin and mouth regularly for new moles or growths
- Keep an eye on old moles and growths for changes in size, shape or appearance
- Watch for sores that are slow to heal
- Be aware of old scars, and watch for changes in appearance
- Keep an eye on patches of skin that change color
- To administer a thorough self-skin examination, it’s important to examine your body top to toe—including your scalp, face, ears, mouth, neck, torso, arms, underarms, hands, and legs. Also remember to check the soles of your feet, spaces between your toes, your genital area and between your buttocks.
- Use mirrors, where necessary, for a more comprehensive self-exam, and remember to check the places that might receive minimal to no sun-exposure.
When to visit your dermatologist
To keep on top of skin changes and concerns, we recommend that you visit your dermatologist at least once each year for a thorough skin examination. That said, if you find a suspicious mole, growth or skin change on your body, it’s important that you schedule a visit to your dermatologist immediately. Your doctor will conduct a thorough examination, answer your questions and talk with you more about prevention and treatment of skin cancer. If diagnosed, your dermatologist will discuss treatment options such as mole mapping or Mohs surgery.
If you have had skin cancer in the past or if your history of sun exposure, family history, environment or medical conditions put you at high risk for developing skin cancer, you may be a good candidate for mole mapping. Mole mapping is a form of medical photography that involves taking overview and close-up photos of your moles and cataloguing them over time. With regular sessions, these photos can be used as a reference for you and your dermatologist to watch for changes to your moles over time. Mole mapping is a non-evasive medical procedure that can prevent unnecessary biopsies and lead to early detection of skin cancer. When caught early, skin cancer can be relatively easy to treat; it becomes much more dangerous in its advanced stages.
Contact Sanova Dermatology
For more information, or to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dermatologists, please contact Sanova Dermatology today. Need a location closer to you? See our other Louisiana locations.