What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is a serious skin condition that, if left untreated, can result in deformity, significant morbidity and, in some cases, death. Recent statistics suggest that the rates of skin cancer worldwide have continued to increase over the last several decades. Unfortunately, skin cancer is quite common in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure, such as Australia, or in areas where there is a lot of outdoor activity, such as the Bow Valley.
How Do I Get Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer can affect individuals of any skin colour and any age, but it is much more common in individuals with fair skin and individuals of older age.
While the most significant risk factors for developing skin cancer include extensive sun exposure and exposure to tanning beds, other risk factors include:
- History of sunburns
- Greater than 50 moles
- Family history of skin cancer
- Past history of organ transplantation
- Past history of X Ray therapy
- Past history of cancer
Skin Cancer in the Bow Valley
As residents of the Bow Valley area, we are particularly at risk of developing pre cancer and skin cancer lesions because we spend a lot of time outdoors all year round and because of the higher altitude of where we live. At higher altitudes, the exposure to UV radiation is greater. The more time we spend outdoors hiking, skiing, biking and enjoying other pursuits, the greater the risk of UV exposure, sun damage and the development of skin cancer.
For this reason, people living in areas with a lot of sun exposure or with access to outdoor activities, such as the Bow Valley, should have their skin examined regularly, ideally yearly, by a dermatologist, a qualified skin specialist. Early diagnosis of precancer and skin cancer lesions can be effectively treated with minimal complications. Advanced lesions that are either missed or incorrectly diagnosed require more aggressive surgery and have a greater chance of spreading and leading to disastrous results for the patient.
Dr. Lubitz has a special interest in treating patients with risks for or with a history or diagnosis of skin cancer. As a Board Certified Dermatologist with additional post residency training in advanced surgical and medical cancer treatments, Dr. Lubitz is very well trained in all aspects of cancer screening, diagnosis, removal and post cancer surveillance.
At Art of SKIN Dermatology, Laser and Cosmetic Surgery, skin cancer prevention, screening, and treatment is an important part of what we do. We take this very seriously.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are 3 main types of skin cancer. The risk of long-terms problems, spreading of the cancer and even death is related to the particular type of skin cancer a patient may have. The most common types of skin cancer include: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
Basal cell carcinoma is the least aggressive type of skin cancer in terms of its ability to spread to distant sites but is the most common. It occurs on sun-damaged skin and rarely spreads or causes death. It often destroys important tissues locally, especially when located on the face, affecting areas such as the nose, ears, cheeks and eyes. This type of cancer originates from damaged keratinocytes, a principal cell of the skin.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma is more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma and is able to spread. It predominantly occurs on sun-damaged skin and preferentially causes local destruction. Tumours located on the face and head have a greater chance of spreading to distant sites and internal organs. This type of cancer originates from damaged keratinocytes, a principal cell of the skin.
Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer and has a significant chance of spreading if not caught very early. If spread to distant organs, melanoma results in death in most cases. It most commonly occurs most on sun-exposed sites but can occur on any part of the skin. In rare cases, it can originate from non skin sites such as the brain and eye. Sunburns from our childhood or teenage years and the use of tanning beds are significant risk factors for the development of melanoma, as is having a family history of melanoma. Melanoma results from damaged melanocytes, a principal cell type of the skin and the type of cell that moles are composed of.