Skin cancer is on the rise. In fact, there will be more than 5 million skin cancers diagnosed in the USA this year. According to www.cancer.org, skin cancers have risen 77% from 1994 to 2014! What’s worse is that if you have one skin cancer you have about a 50% chance of getting another skin cancer, if you have had 2 skin cancers you have about a 75% chance of getting another skin cancer, and if you have had 3 or more skin cancers you are almost guaranteed to get more. Skin cancer is an epidemic of serious proportion.

In other Doctors Quarterly articles we have outlined how to diagnose if you have a skin cancer and if you remember, the most important thing to watch out for is a spot on your body that is new, changing, or growing. The other thing to watch out for is something that bleeds easily and just never heals. If you notice any of these, please have it checked out by one of the many great Dermatologists in Colorado Springs. If you have more questions, please see our videos to learn more (go to www.coderm.com to view our educational videos).

So What Are Some of the Most Common Myths I Hear About Skin Cancer?

  • Myth 1 – One type of skin cancer turns into another.
  • Truth 1 – Each type of cancer is classified based off of its cell of origin. A Melanoma comes from a mutated cell called a melanocyte. A Squamous Cell Cancer comes from a mutated squamous cell. So, one cancer does not turn into another cancer since they are from different cell origins. However, all skin cancers occur due to a mix of genetics (especially how easily you burn in the sun) and environmental exposures (especially sun exposure and tanning bed use). So, while one cancer does not turn into another, if you have the right mixture of genetics and environmental exposures to get one type of skin cancer, you have a higher risk of developing another type of skin cancer than someone who has never had cancer.
  • Myth 2 – My biopsy came back as a skin cancer but the site looks completely normal. I do not need it treated.
  • Truth 2 – Even when a biopsy site from a skin cancer looks 100% normal to a trained eye, like a Dermatologist’s, there is still cancer lurking below the surface about 30% of the time! However, most of the time a trained eye will be able to spot abnormalities in a biopsy site that the untrained eye doesn’t notice. Regardless, if you have a shave biopsy performed on a skin lesion (go to www.coderm.com to watch a video on what shave biopsies are), even if the biopsy site looks normal to a Dermatologist AND the pathology report says the margins are clear, you still need to have the site adequately treated! More on this in Myth 3 below.
  • Myth 3 – I had a shave biopsy done on a skin cancer and the pathology report says the margins are clear so I do not need to have anything else done to the area.
  • Truth 3 – This is completely wrong! When we do a shave biopsy, the pathologist looks at less than 1% of the margin under the microscope to determine the diagnosis, not to tell us if it is adequately treated!
  • Myth 4 – Just cut out anything that you think is bad Doc. I don’t want to come back and a biopsy is not needed anyway.
  • Truth 4 – We take biopsies so that we know WHAT is present on your skin so that we know HOW to treat the area. It is hard to tackle a problem if you do not know what the problem is. Dermatologists have trained eyes and so we are pretty good at guessing what a lesion is before we biopsy it. But, we need to know not only what type of cancer it is but also what the cellular characteristics are so we know how deep it is, how aggressive it is, and any other pertinent information that can be gleamed from looking at it under the microscope. Plus, if we were to just cut everything out and not biopsy it first, we would end up doing some unnecessary surgeries when our eyes thought it was one thing but turned out to be another.

Call To Action – If you see a new or changing spot on your skin, get it looked at by a Dermatologist.

About the author

Dr. Anderson with Doctors Quarterly Magazine - Cropped
Dr. Reagan Anderson

Dr. Anderson is a Board Certified Dermatologist and Mohs Micrographic Surgeon. He serves as a Clinical Professor of Dermatology and is actively involved in patient and healthcare provider education on dermatology conditions and treatment.

Colorado Dermatology Institute
8580 Scarborough Drive / 1220 Lake Plaza Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado