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July 27, 2017

To detect skin cancer early, be alert for any suspicious spots

NEW YORK (July 27, 2017) — Although melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it’s not the only form of skin cancer that can be deadly. Squamous cell carcinoma, a type of nonmelanoma skin cancer, is not only potentially fatal, but also more common than melanoma — in fact, recent research indicates that SCC incidence has risen by more than 250 percent.

“While other skin cancers may be more lethal, they’re less common than SCC,” says board-certified dermatologist M. Laurin Council, MD, FAAD, an assistant professor of dermatology at Washington University in St. Louis. “SCC is highly treatable when detected early, so it’s important for people to know the signs of this disease and keep a close eye on their skin.”

SCC may appear as a pink or white bump; a rough, scaly patch; or a sore that won’t heal. Dr. Council advises everyone who notices any suspicious spots on their skin to see a board-certified dermatologist for diagnosis and, if necessary, treatment.

“The ABCDE warning signs of melanoma don’t usually apply to SCC, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any and all suspicious spots,” Dr. Council says. “Moles are not the only skin lesions that may indicate skin cancer. Any skin growth that is new, changing or won’t go away warrants a visit to the dermatologist.”

The vast majority of SCCs can be successfully treated with surgical or destructive methods, Dr. Council says. Without treatment, however, the cancer may grow larger, which could lead to disfigurement; in rare cases, SCC may metastasize and spread, making it more difficult to treat.

According to Dr. Council, current treatment options for advanced SCC, which include traditional chemotherapy and radiation, do not have high success rates and may cause negative side effects. She says doctors may be able to provide improved treatment by utilizing targeted therapies, drugs that hone in on patients’ specific tumors, allowing for more effective treatment with fewer side effects. While these types of medications have not yet received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for treatment of cutaneous SCC, they have been approved for treatment of other cancers.

“Targeted therapies have shown a lot of promise for SCC patients,” Dr. Council says. “A board-certified dermatologist can explain your treatment options and help determine the best possible treatment for you.”

Dermatologists also can identify patients who are at an increased risk for recurrent and advanced SCC and suggest preventive measures, Dr. Council says. Because unprotected exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet light is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer, she advises everyone to stay out of tanning beds and protect themselves from the sun’s harmful UV rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a comprehensive sun protection plan that includes seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

“Prevention and early detection are both vital in the fight against skin cancer,” Dr. Council says. “Make sure you take steps to protect yourself, watch for changes on your skin, and see a board-certified dermatologist if you notice any suspicious spots.”

Source: American Academy of Dermatology