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Skin Cancer

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of cells on the skin and is most common on skin exposed to the sun. There are three main types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Though frequently removed without complications, some skin cancers can cause deformation and if undetected, spread to other organs and make successful treatment more difficult.

Risk Factors

Unprotected, prolonged sun exposure is the main and most well-known cause of skin cancer. The risk of skin cancer increases from other factors as well, including:

  • Fair skin

  • Family or personal history of skin cancer

  • Living in a sunny climate

  • Moles

  • Radiation exposure

  • Severe sunburns, especially during childhood


Depending on the type of skin cancer, signs include:

  • Basal cell carcinoma — These cancers appear as either a flat lesion that is red or skin-colored or a pearly bump. They often occur on the face and neck.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma — Frequently found on the hands, ears, or face, this cancer shows up as a lesion covered in a crusty, scaly surface or a firm, red nodule.

  • Melanoma — Important warning signs of melanoma include a new spot on the skin or a spot (such as a mole) that is changing color, size, or shape.

Treatment Options

Various skin cancer treatment methods are available, including:

  • Chemotherapy — Kills cancer cells with medication, either through a cream applied to the skin or if cancer has spread to other organs and lymph nodes, by mouth or intravenously.

  • Cryosurgery — Freezes and destroys skin cancers with liquid nitrogen.

  • Electrosurgery — A surgeon scrapes away cancerous cells using a sharp instrument, then cauterizes the area and kills remaining cancer cells with an electric probe.

  • Immunotherapy — Uses medications that help your body’s immune system identify and kill cancer cells.

  • Mohs surgery — A surgeon removes skin, one layer at a time, and examines it under a microscope until no cancer is found.

  • Radiation therapy — Low-energy X-rays are targeted at the cancer, killing the cancerous cells after one or more sessions.

  • Surgery — For many skin cancers, surgical removal is a viable and curative measure.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of skin cancer, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat skin cancer.