About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. The commonest forms of skin cancer are Squamous Cell Cancer and Melanoma.
Most commonly, skin cancer occurs on sun exposed areas of the skin, but it can also occur in areas that does not get exposed to the sun.
It is a well-known fact that skin cancer incidence is increasing exponentially. The commonest skin cancers are BCC and SCC but it is highly curable if detected early and treated appropriately.
Skin Screening Exam
The Skin Screening Exam is used for the early detection of melanoma and non-melanoma cancer in high-risk individuals. The following persons have an increased risk for developing skin cancer:
- Caucasian males over 50 years of age
- Patients with a strong family history of melanoma
- Organ transplant patients on immunosuppressants
- Patients with multiple nevi (50+) or with some atypical (“dysplastic”) nevi
- Patients with a personal history of skin cancer
- People with recurrent episodes of sunburn
- Persons with a fair complexion (blonde or red hair, light eye colour) and a high incidence of freckling.
A head-to-toe Total Body Skin Exam is done with the aid of a dermatoscope. The skin is examined both clinically for any suspicious lesions and dermatoscopically. The usefulness of the Skin Exam comes with the addition of dermatoscopy. This has been proven to pick up skin cancer earlier and improve specificity (meaning less unnecessary procedures) and sensitivity (meaning earlier detection of skin cancer) compared to a naked eye exam alone.
Skin Cancer Diagnosis
Biopsy of a Lesion
If a lesion is suspicious the only way to accurately diagnose it would be to do a biopsy. Many benign lesions can be mistaken for cancerous growths and vice versa.
Even though our clinical and dermatoscopic exam can help distinguish between benign and malignant lesions, the most accurate way the confirm a diagnosis is by doing a biopsy and sending the specimen for histological analysis and assessment.