- Find a Doctor
- Medical Services
- Patients & Visitors
- Classes & Events
- Health Library
- Why Choose Sharp?
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, accounting for nearly half of all cancer cases in the United States. Offering tips on how to recognize the signs of skin cancer is Dr. Margaret Elizondo, a Sharp Grossmont Hospital-affiliated physician who specializes in family medicine. Learn how you can protect yourself and your family.
What are the different types of skin cancers? Which is the most common? Which is the most serious?
Skin cancers can range from cosmetic to life-threatening. Many people get basal cell carcinomas (BCC), which grow very slowly and cause cosmetic damage to areas such as the ears and nose, but never metastasize. BCCs can look like small red areas or pearly nodular raised bumps.
Less common is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which can metastasize, and has a scaly irregular surface. Least common is melanoma, but it is most life-threatening as it is the most likely to metastasize if not removed early.
How much sun exposure puts one at risk for developing skin cancer? Are there other causes of skin cancer?
Most skin cancers are related to sun exposure. The number of sunburns a person has during their adolescent years correlates with skin cancer risk later on.
What signs should I look for in detecting skin cancer? When should I contact a doctor?
For melanoma, we look for the ABCDs: A for asymmetry, B for (irregular) border, C for (darker or varying) color and D for diameter (greater than 6 millimeters, pencil-eraser size). These concerning signs in any combination MAY be cause for concern. Also, skin lesions that itch or bleed for no reason should be evaluated.
How is skin cancer treated?
Some types of very early skin cancers (or precancerous lesions like actinic, or solar, keratoses) can be treated by freezing with liquid nitrogen. More suspicious lesions are removed with a scalpel and biopsied for diagnosis. Melanomas may require extensive surgery, including biopsy of nearby lymph nodes and other continuous treatment as directed by an oncologist.
What can I do to protect myself and my family?
Avoid the sun or use sunscreen when exposed to the sun’s rays (by minimizing exposure you also you can also minimize wrinkles), and examine your skin periodically by using the ABCD method.
Find a San Diego Oncologist
To find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego oncologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.