liege-1189792_960_720Did you know skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.? According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1 in 5 Americans will be affected by a nonmelanoma skin cancer during their lifetime. Only 4-5% of skin cancers are malignant melanoma, but they cause the most deaths from skin cancer.

Many people consider skin cancer and melanoma to be synonymous, but melanoma is only one form of skin cancer. Melanoma begins in the cells found in the lowest layer of the epidermis referred to as the melanocytes. These cells are responsible for pigment within the skin, giving it a brown color. Melanoma most often is found on the skin, even on areas normally not exposed to the sun, and can also start in other parts of the body such as the eyes or mouth.

The majority of skin cancer occurrences are non-melanoma with the two most common types being Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). While they are malignant, they are slow growing and more easily treated than melanoma. BCC forms in basal cells found in the middle layer of the epidermis while SCC surfaces in the upper layer in the squamous cells.

BCC tends to grow more slowly while SCC has the ability to grow into deeper layers of the skin. Non-melanoma skin cancers can be cured if identified and treated early. When found early, melanoma is treatable but it is a diagnosis that must be monitored closely for life.

While the risk of recurrence goes down after 5 years, it never completely goes away. Patients must monitor their condition closely and quickly report any changes in skin condition or symptoms that could indicate a tumor.

All types of skin cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma, can occur anywhere in the body. Melanoma is most commonly found on areas of the skin exposed to sunlight such as the face, neck, hands, lips, ears, back of the hands, and arms but can also surface in unexposed areas such as the scalp and bottoms of the feet.

“Early detection and diagnosis plays an important role in the treatment of these malignancies,” explains says Dr. Jessica L. Vinsant, MD, general surgeon with Premier Surgical Associates’ Tennova North Knoxville and Physicians Regionals offices.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 12.25.36 PMThe most common step you can take in preventing skin cancer is avoiding overexposure to the sun and using sunscreen. Do regular skin self exams by using the “A-B-C-D-E” method of observation and look for moles and spots that change in asymmetry, border, color, diameter and that evolve.

Watch for any moles that are asymmetrical, or have uneven borders, or are not uniform in color. Melanomas are typically larger in diameter than a pencil eraser, although they can be smaller. Finally, when a mole changes in size, shape, or color or begins to bleed or scab, this could be a sign of danger. You should also talk with your dermatologist or primary care physician if you have any questions about moles or unusual areas on your skin.

Premier Surgical Associates is the largest surgical group in the Knoxville region, providing comprehensive surgical care, with referrals from across the entire East Tennessee region. To learn more about skin cancer surgery, visit the Premier Surgical Skin Tumors & Cancers webpage.