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Confidence Beyond the Skin-How do you know if you have a skin cancer?

Today I am writing a more serious article because of a situation that recently arose with one of my family members.  A few weeks ago, I received an email from my cousin in New York informing me that she had been diagnosed with skin cancer. Here is a photo of my beautiful cousin, Gail!

Her dermatologist found a small Basal Cell Carcinoma on the side of her nose and understandably, she was upset about this diagnosis. She experienced many of the common concerns, wondering what she should do and what this diagnosis meant to her overall health. I tried to reassure her that she will have a small surgery and that everything will be okay. This got me thinking about the different types of skin cancer and how important it is to understand your diagnosis of skin cancer . For example, many people don’t know that skin cancer is the #1 cancer in the US, and that not all skin cancers are created equal. Some skin cancers are relatively easy to cure, while others can be deadly. Because of the different distinctions, many people are confused about the different types of skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma-This skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer and typically grows on sun exposed areas of the body, such as the face, neck, and shoulders. Basal Cell Cancers generally look pink and have a pearly or shiny texture. If left untreated, they can scab or ulcerate and start to bleed. When these cancers are diagnosed early, they can be easily treated with a small excisional surgery. If they are growing on delicate areas of the face and neck, Mohs micrographic surgery is the recommended treatment. Mohs Micrographic surgery is a specialized surgery that is designed to remove the skin cancer in tiny layers while leaving as much healthy skin intact as possible. While any skin cancer has a chance to recur, Basal Cell Carcinomas are usually 100% curable when caught early. If left untreated they can lead to serious disfigurement.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma-This is the second most common type of skin cancer. Like Basal Cell Carcinoma’s,  it is common for Squamous Cell Cancers to grow in sun exposed areas. They usually look red, scaly, rough or crusted. They can also bleed. Depending on the size and location, they can be removed with a simple office surgery or Mohs Micrographic surgery. While it is rare, these type of skin cancers do have the potential to metastasize.


Melanoma-Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer.  The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. They can arise in an existing mole or a new mole.  If treated early, Melanoma can be cured, but if not treated they can metastasize and become deadly.

I recommend monthly self skin exams in front of a mirror to examine all of your moles. If you see anything new or changing, please see a qualified professional and have it evaluated right away.

 Remember the guidelines for early Melanoma detection;

A-Asymmetry, one side does not mirror the other side

B-Irregular Border, the edges of the mole are jagged and not circular

C- Color, multiple shades of light and dark pigment in a


D-Diameter, the bigger the mole, the greater the risk. Over 6 mm is considered high risk

E-Evolving, change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting

It is important to note that sun exposure increases the risk of all skin cancers. Be sure to use sunscreen, sun protective clothing, and seek shade when possible. Make a reminder to yourself to schedule at least a yearly skin exam at the same time as your annual physical or mammogram so that you do not forget to see your dermatologist. If you have a history of pre-cancer or skin cancer, you should be seen more often. If you see anything pink, red, scaly, dark or irregular, schedule an appointment with your dermatology provider as soon as possible. When Skin Cancers are caught early they are usually curable, but those that are ignored can lead to major surgeries, significant health problems, and maybe even death.

Feel free to read more about skin cancer and prevention at

  My cousin is recovering after her Mohs Surgery for her Basal Cell Cancer and is doing well.  I am sure she will be even more religious about  sunscreen after her ordeal! 

 I typically like to keep my blog articles light hearted and fun, but this information is important to share. I promise for a more “fun” article next time! How about, “multiple ways to improve your frown lines?”

*Reference http://

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