Skin Cancer (Screening, Treatment, & Surgery) Specialist

Dermatology Surgical And Medical

Michael R. Lerner, MD

Dermatologist located in Bankers Hill, San Diego, CA

Dr. Lerner is certified to diagnose and treat skin cancer for patients in San Diego, California.

Skin Cancer (Screening, Treatment, & Surgery)

Skin cancer refers to the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Risk factors include pale skin, family history of melanoma, being over 40 years old, and regular sun exposure. Fortunately, skin cancer is almost always curable if detected and treated early. The most common skin cancers are:

  1. Basal cell carcinoma - 80-85% of all skin cancers. Basal cell carcinoma affects cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma - 10% of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma affects cells in the middle layer of the epidermis.
  3. Melanoma - 5% of all skin cancers. Melanoma is a rare but very dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.

Skin cancers vary in shape, color, size and texture, so any new, changed or otherwise suspicious growths or rashes should be examined immediately by a physician. Early intervention is essential to preventing the cancer from spreading.

What causes skin cancer?

Skin cancer occurs as a result of mutations that develop in the your skin cells' DNA. These mutations cause the cells to multiply far more rapidly than they normally would, eventually forming cancerous masses that can overwhelm healthy tissues. DNA mutations can be triggered by exposure to UV radiation, mostly from the sun but also from tanning beds and other sources, as well as genetics, certain immune-compromising diseases, and other factors.

What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

The most common signs of skin cancer are lesions, or growths, on the skin's surface. These lesions are typically oddly shaped or multicolored, and they may change in size, shape or color over time. Sores that are slow to heal are another common indicator of skin cancer. The type of lesion that forms can vary depending on the type of cancer that's present (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma).

Is it true skin cancer only forms on skin that's been exposed to the sun?

No; this is a common but very dangerous misconception. Skin cancer can form anywhere on your body, even in areas that have never or rarely been exposed to the sun. Because regular evaluations of your entire body can be difficult if not impossible, having a regular skin cancer screening is important to ensure all areas are properly evaluated.

How can a doctor tell if a growth is cancerous?

During your exam, any suspicious areas will be biopsied – a tiny tissue sample will be removed for further evaluation under a microscope. Before tissue is removed, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the spot. If the lab results indicate cancer is present, your doctor will discuss state-of-the-art treatment options, such as Mohs surgery or electronic brachytherapy.