Skin Cancers
Skin cancer-Melanoma-Dr.JR

Skin Cancers

Skin cancer-Melanoma-Dr.JR

Most people know that melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer. However, many do not know that non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in Canadians(1) .

What are Skin Cancers?

Skin cancers are tumours that result from the uncontrolled growth of skin cells. Most skin cancers develop on sun-exposed skin such as the face, neck, arms and legs, and are the result of too much sun over many years.

Types of Skin Cancers

The three different types of skin cancer start in different types of cells in the skin:

  1. Basal cell skin cancer – least dangerous, most common, firm, flesh coloured or red bump, often a pearly border, or a sore that bleeds, heals, reappears, or small red scaling patch
  2. Squamous cell skin cancer – common, thickened, red scaly bump or wart-like growth
  3. Melanoma skin cancer – least common, can be deadly, a change in colour, shape, size of mole, or brown/black freckle-like flat spot, often on legs of women, backs of men

What are the Causes of Skin Cancers?

  • Genes
  • Ultraviolet (UV) rays damage DNA in skin cells (sunlight or tanning beds)

Who is Affected for Skin Cancer?

  • Most common cancer seen in Canadians – 81,700 cases in 2013 (1)
  • 1 in 6 lifetime risk for those born 1990s (2)
  • Mostly age 50 and up
  • Melanoma age 20 and up

Risk Factors 

  • Fair skin, blond, red hair
  • Burn easily, freckle
  • Lots of sun at work or outdoor recreation
  • Many moles (>50) or large, unusual moles
  • History severe sunburns
  • Frequent tanning bed user
  • Family history

Related Problems

  • Pain
  • Scarring, disfigurement
  • Melanoma skin cancer can be deadly

Potential Skin Cancer Treatments

  • For non-melanoma skin cancer :
    • Prescription medications – creams
    • Procedures – electrodesiccation and curettage, surgical removal, photodynamic therapy, radiation
  • For melanoma skin cancer:
    • Procedures:  surgical removal

Note: Certain treatments for medical conditions considered to be elective and/or cosmetic are not covered by Medical Services Plan of BC

If you have recently noticed a change in a mole or patch of skin, contact your primary care physician for an appointment immediately.

Patient Resources
Mayo Clinic
American Academy of Dermatology
(1) Canadian Cancer Statistics 2012
(2) Demers Alain A, et al. Trends of non melanoma skin cancer from 1960 through 2000 in a Canadian Population, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, August 2005, Vol 53, Number 2, 320-328.

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