Skin Cancer FAQs

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Basal Cell Carcinoma

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Other Types of Skin Cancer

What is Actinic Keratosis, and what does it look like? »

Otherwise known as a “precancer,” an actinic keratosis is usually a scaly spot that is found on sun-damaged skin. Actinic keratoses are usually non-tender, may be pink or red and rough, resembling sandpaper. They occur most frequently on the face, scalp, neck, and forearms. Actinic keratoses are considered precursors to squamous cell carcinoma, although most do not progress past the precancer stage

What is Melanoma? »

Melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer that can spread at any time to form malignant tumors in other parts of the body. Most melanomas are black or brown lesions however, some can be skin colored, pink, blue or white. Melanoma may be caused by ultraviolet damage or may be due to genetic factors in some individuals. Possible warning signs for melanoma are known as the ABCDEF’s and are asymmetry, irregular border, color differences, diameter wider than a pencil eraser (6 mm), and evolution or changes in the mole, and family history. It is important to do self-exams and become familiar with the moles on your body. If any changes are noted, it is important to have the lesions looked at by a dermatologist.

What is Merkel Cell Carcinoma? »

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare and aggressive form of skin cancer which has a high risk of recurring and spreading to other parts of the body. Risk factors are sun damaged skin in fair-skinned people over 50 years old, but it can occur in people with darker skin tones. These tumors tend to grow rapidly and can be reddish, purple, or skin colored. As with melanoma, early detection is important for survival.

What is Atypical Fibroxanthoma? »

An atypical fibroxanthoma is a skin tumor that most commonly occurs on the head and neck of elderly people with sun damaged skin or in people who have received radiation therapy. The lesion can be pink, skin colored, or reddish with or without crusting. These can behave rather indolently or they can be aggressive and spread through the local tissue.

What is Dermatofibrosarcoma Protuberans? »

Dermatofibroma sarcoma protuberans is a rare tumor that arises from cells in the dermis and has an unknown cause. It usually presents as a painless, thickened bump in the skin which grows slowly over time. They are red and brown in color and tend to recur after surgical excision unless the margins are definitively cleared. These tumors can have a very extensive deep component and require large margins to clear adequately.

Skin Cancer Treatment

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What Are Some Skin Cancer Prevention Strategies?

Taking sun protective measures is the best way to prevent sun damage and the possibility of skin cancers in the future. We recommend:

  • Wearing at least an SPF 30 sunblock daily, however even higher numbers of SPF are ideal
  • Reapplying sunblock every 2 hours if in the sun, swimming, or exercising
  • Seeking shade during the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm
  • Avoiding intentional tanning and tanning beds
  • Using sunblock with the ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide
  • Having your skin examined at least once a year by a dermatologist.

*Information was supplemented by the Skin Cancer Foundation at and Dermnet New Zealand.

Skin cancer education and skin cancer surgery training are offered by the American Society for Mohs Surgery. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today.

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American Society for Mohs Surgery
6475 East Pacific Coast Highway, Box 700
Long Beach, CA 90803-4201
Telephone: (714) 379-6262 or
(800) 616-2767
Facsimile: (714) 362-9540