Skin Cancer Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

  • Skin Health   •   March 17, 2019

Despite increased education, the number of skin cancer cases continues to rise. The Dermatology & Laser Center of San Antonio™ is committed to the prevention, early detection and treatment of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Facts

  • Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.

  • In Texas, the incidence is even higher; the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer is one in three.

  • Skin cancer will kill over 8,000 people this year; and it is largely preventable.

  • Men are twice as likely to develop skin cancer than women.

  • According to the American Cancer Society, over 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year.

  • One in five individuals in this country will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

Types of Skin Cancer

Actinic Keratoses (AK) The Earliest Skin Cancer 

Actinic keratoses or solar keratoses are considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer. They are small, scaly spots most commonly found on the face, ears, neck, lower arms, and back of the hands in fair-skinned individuals who have had significant sun exposure.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)

BCC  is the most common and least serious of the three. It often begins as a small blemish or pearly-appearing bump that can bleed easily. While BCC has little ability to spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, it can be locally destructive, growing and eating away normal skin and underlying tissue. It is most common on the head and neck area.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer. SCC can metastasize but usually only in long-ignored tumors or those located in certain danger zones such as the ears and lips. Most patients first notice an SCC as a hard bump, something like a wart or a callous. It is locally destructive and common on the head and neck area, and the backs of the hands and arms.

Malignant Melanoma

Malignant Melanoma is much less common, but much more serious. Often called the “mole cancer,” melanomas can appear as a pre-existing mole that starts changing or as a new, often dark, spot that is changing rapidly. Melanoma can metastasize widely, and is responsible for most skin cancer deaths. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the body, including areas that don’t normally get much sun. Do you know your ABC’s? A,B,C,D’s of Melanoma


The key to surviving skin cancer is to find it as early as possible. Self-exams (click here for directions on how to perform a self-exam) of all areas of the skin, especially those exposed to sunlight, and professional examinations by your physician are most effective. Routine exams will help you detect these warning signs.


Many skin cancers are treated by simple, quick, and effective office procedures. These minor treatments can include freezing the cancer site, scraping and cauterizing the cancer site, or cutting out the cancer site. There are some topical medications (creams) that can be used on certain superficial cancers, which eliminates the need for surgical treatment.

  • Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) – a treatment that uses a photosensitizing drug such as Levulan™ and aspecial light like the Blu-U Light unit to destroy cells.
  • Cryosurgery — Liquid nitrogen kills the cancerous cells by freezing them.

  • Topical Chemotherapy  such as Aldara, Efudex, or Carac. When treating skin cancer, a cream or lotion such as Aldara, Efudex or Carac is placed on the skin to destroy the cancer cells.

  • Curettage and electrodesiccation — All visible cancer is scraped away, then an electric probe is used to kill any remaining microscopic cancerous cells

  • Excision — All visible cancer is cut away together with a margin of healthy tissue, then the skin is stitched closed with sutures. If a large area of skin is removed, a skin graft may be necessary.

  • Radiation — The cancer is destroyed with high-energy rays aimed from outside the body.

  • Moh’s surgery — The tumor is shaved away in thin layers and one layer at a time is checked under the microscope to preserve as much healthy skin as possible while making sure that all of the cancer is removed.

  • Taking part in a Clinical Trial —  Many of today’s standard treatments for skin cancer are based on earlier clinical trials. Patients who take part in a clinical trial may be among the first to receive a new treatment. For more information on our upcoming clinical research trials, visit


The most effective form of prevention is to protect yourself from the sun. That Means:

  • Avoid midday sun exposure if possible—usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun – and the uv rays- are the strongest.  Follow this link to check the uv index>>>
  • Frequently apply AND reapply sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher.

  • Wear protective clothing such as long sleeves and a hat.

  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.