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Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

What is Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?

Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) refers to all types of skin cancer that are not melanoma and includes basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).  People at higher risk for these cancers have fair skin, skin that burns easily, blond or red hair, blue or green eyes, history of sunburns, previous use of tanning beds, or have a weakened immune system. 

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer.  It is also the most common cancer in the world.  While BCC can occur at any age, the risk of developing this skin cancer increases significantly with age.  It commonly presents as a skin-colored or pink non-healing sore that is “pimple-like”, but it doesn’t resolve within a few weeks or it keeps coming back in the same spot.   A skin cancer will not completely heal or go away without treatment.  While a BCC rarely spreads to other areas of the body, it can invade and destroy surrounding tissue and underlying structures such as cartilage, eyes and rarely bone.   Early diagnosis and proper treatment by a board-certified dermatologist can prevent this.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer.  An SCC may appear as a pink crusty sore, a red flat patch or a growing dome-shaped bump that bleeds easily.  Some SCCs begin as precancerous growths called actinic keratoses (AKs).  SCCs commonly develop on sun-exposed skin but can also develop in the mouth, under nails or on the genital skin.  In fact, smoking and chewing tobacco increase one’s risk for oral SCC.  Approximately 5% of SCCs can spread to other parts of the body (metastasize), which can be life-threatening.  Early diagnosis and proper treatment by a board-certified dermatologist is key.   

Can You Prevent Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?

There are many things you can do to minimize your risk of nonmelanoma skin cancer.

  • Generously applying sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater and reapplying every 2 hours is crucial.
  • Seek shade whenever possible.
  • Wear sun protective clothing, hats and sunglasses whenever possible.
  • NEVER use tanning beds.
  • Perform monthly self skin exams. Early detection is key.

If you notice any suspicious lesions on your skin, immediately make an appointment with one of the board-certified dermatologists at Iowa Dermatology Consultants.

How do You Treat Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer?

A biopsy is used to diagnose both BCCs and SCCs.  Once the diagnosis is made, a dermatologist can determine the appropriate treatment.  This often depends on the size, location, pathology characteristics and overall health and age of the patient.  Most are treated with one of the following procedures.

  • Simple surgical excision where a dermatologist cuts the cancer out along with some surrounding healthy tissue. The removed tissue is then examined under the microscope to be sure all of the cancerous tissue has been removed.
  • Mohs micrographic surgery is recommended when a BCC or SCC is large or on an area of the head, neck or body where there is not much “extra skin” to spare.  The procedure is done in stages, including viewing the tissue under a microscope, while the patient waits. This allows the removal of all cancerous cells for the highest cure rate while sparing healthy tissue and leaving the smallest possible scar.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage is a technique used by dermatologists where the skin cancer is scraped or “curetted” away and then the base of the tissue is burned or “desiccated”. No stitches are involved with this technique.

Additional Skin Cancer Resources

Links to Additional Information:

American Academy of Dermatology Skin Cancer Videos:

Why Iowa Dermatology Consultants?

Iowa Dermatology Consultants believes in a patient focused approach to care.  We work with patients forming an active partnership in treatment to help repair the physical and emotional damage of skin disease.  Our Ankeny and Ames locations allow us to conveniently treat patients across the Des Moines metro area and all of Central Iowa including Ames, Carroll, Fort Dodge, Iowa Falls, Marshalltown, Huxley, Slater, and Indianola.  

At Iowa Dermatology Consultants, all of our physicians are board-certified dermatologists. Your care provided by Dr. Snider, Dr. Smith, or Dr. Myers is founded in knowledge and experience which exceeds that of a general practitioner.  Together they have almost 50 years of combined experience in diagnosing and treating a vast array of skin conditions.  This includes over 16,000 hours of patient care training to ensure that a board-certified dermatologist can expertly diagnosis and treat over 3000 dermatologic conditions.

Whether you’re coming to us for help with skin cancer or diseases like acne, psoriasis, and eczema; or to reverse the signs of aging with Botox, chemical peels or other cosmetic procedures, at Iowa Dermatology Consultants you will be getting the best dermatologic care in Central Iowa.