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Skin Cancer

Find out more about Skin Cancer Diagnosis, Removal and Reconstruction

Skin cancer is a disease in which cancerous (malignant) cells are found in the outer layers of your skin. There are several types of cancer that originate in the skin. The most common types are basal cell carcinoma (70 percent of all skin cancers) and squamous cell carcinoma (20 percent). These types are classified as nonmelanoma skin cancer. Melanoma (5 percent of all skin cancers) is the third type of skin cancer. It is less common than basal cell or squamous cell cancers, but potentially much more serious. Other types of skin cancer are rare.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It typically appears as a small raised bump that has a pearly appearance. It is most commonly seen on areas of the skin that have received excessive sun exposure. These cancers may spread to the skin surrounding them, but rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Squamous cell carcinoma is also seen on the areas of the body that have been exposed to excessive sun (nose, lower lip, hands, and forehead). Often this cancer appears as a firm red bump or ulceration of the skin that does not heal. Squamous cell carcinomas can spread to lymph nodes in the area.

Melanoma is a skin cancer (malignancy) that arises from the melanocytes in the skin. Melanocytes are the cells that give color to our skin. These cancers typically arise as pigmented (colored) lesions in the skin with an irregular shape, irregular border, and multiple colors. It is the most harmful of all the skin cancers, because it can spread to lymph nodes or other sites in the body. Fortunately, most melanomas have a very high cure rate when identified and treated early.

The vast majority of skin cancers can be cured if diagnosed and treated early. Aside from protecting your skin from sun damage, it is important to recognize the early signs of skin cancer including:

  • Skin sores that do not heal
  • Bumps or nodules in the skin that are enlarging
  • Changes in existing moles (size, texture, color).

The Oregon Ear, Nose and Throat Center (OENT) physicians are trained to diagnose, biopsy, treat (through excision if necessary), and perform surgery for these types of skin conditions. Typcially if surgery is needed,it can be done in our onsite outpatient Ambulatory Surgery Center. All surgical care is delivered by experienced, board certified ENT physicians and anesthesiologists. Facility fees at the OENT Surgery Centerare much lower than facility fees at area hospitals, which helps to combat rising health plan costs.

The single most important thing you can do to lower your risk of skin cancer is to avoid direct sun exposure. Sunlight produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can directly damage the cells (DNA) of our skin. People who work outdoors are at the highest risk of developing skin cancer. The sun’s rays are the most powerful between 10 am and 2 pm, so be particularly careful during those hours. If you must be out during the day, wear clothing that covers as much of your skin as possible, including a wide-brimmed hat to block the sun from your face, scalp, neck, and ears.

The use of sunscreen can provide protection against UV radiation. When selecting a sunscreen, choose one with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or more. For people who live in the Southern U.S., a SPF of 30 or greater should be used during summer and when prolonged exposure is anticipated. Sunscreen should be applied before exposure and when the skin is dry. If you will be sweating or swimming, most sunscreens need to be reapplied. Sunscreen products do not completely block the damaging rays, but they allow you to be in the sun longer without getting sunburn. Catching skin cancer early can save your life.