Skin cancer can arise anywhere on the skin but it is more common on the parts that are exposed to sunlight; the face, hands, neck, and arms. Even though it is one of the most common cancers skin cancer kills a relatively small number of people because, when detected early, it is usually treatable.
Types of skin cancer
Skin cancers are classified by the shape and type of cells within the tumour.
- Malignant melanoma: the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It usually presents as an abnormal mole but can then spread to other parts of the body. Malignant melanoma kills around 2,000 people in the UK each year, many of them aged under 35
- Non-melanoma skin cancer: the most common cancer worldwide. Develops in the upper layers of the skin. Rarely fatal and easily treatable when diagnosed early
- Basal cell carcinoma: 75% of all non-melanoma skin cancers are of this type
- Squamous cell carcinoma: these make up a further 20%
- Rare skin cancers: these account for the remaining 5% and include cancers such as sarcomas, adnexal cancers, Kaposi sarcoma, skin lymphoma or Merkel cell carcinoma
Skin cancer screening
At The Devonshire Clinic we have a well established and thorough procedure for diagnosing skin cancers.
Treatment for skin cancer
The best treatment varies for the different skin cancer types:
- Malignant melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin so needs prompt surgery that may be followed by chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy as necessary. Early melanomas are usually treated by surgery alone. Mohs micrographic surgery is sometimes an option
- Non-melanoma skin cancers are usually treated by surgery. At The Devonshire Clinic we use Mohs micrographic surgery for many basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Chemotherapy creams are also prescribed in some cases and are used to treat pre-cancerous skin lesions such as actinic keratosis
Other treatment options available from The Devonshire Clinic include:
- Photodynamic (PDT) therapy: a special cream is applied to the skin cancer or precancer and is absorbed by the abnormal tumour cells. The medication is then activated when a bright light from a laser is directed accurately onto the skin, resulting in destruction of the skin cancer.
- Chemotherapy creams/gels e.g. topical immuno-modulator cream / 5-FU cream / IM gel: these topical treatments can be used to treat precancerous lesions such as Bowen’s disease or actinic keratosis