Charleston Dermatology Blog

Skin Cancer 101: A Guide to Melanoma and Carcinomas

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If you’re a Lowcountry resident, there’s no need to explain how intense the South Carolina sun shines. While our beautiful weather may be perfect for soaking up Vitamin D and enjoying the great outdoors, it also increases skin cancer risk. With more than 3 million U.S. cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer diagnosed each year, education and detection are the keys to good health. 

Skin Cancer Explained

Skin cancer is a type of cancer that occurs when abnormal cells grow out of control in the skin’s outermost layer. It is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, though the good news is that it’s also one of the most preventable.

Skin cancer can occur in anyone, regardless of skin type, and can be caused by a variety of factors, including exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds, family history and immune system suppression. If you notice any suspicious moles or spots on your skin, have them inspected by a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible.

The Three Types of Skin Cancer

Did you know that there are actually three main types of skin cancer? These include melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.


Melanoma forms when pigment-producing skin cells become damaged and grow out of control. This cancer can occur anywhere in your body, including areas not often exposed to the sun. While Melanoma is more common in older individuals, it can affect all ages.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma often appears as a red, scaly patch or sore that doesn’t heal or go away. While it may be scary to receive this diagnosis, the good news is that squamous cell carcinoma is typically treatable and curable if caught early. In fact, most cases can be removed with a simple surgical procedure. Contact your board-certified dermatologist immediately if you notice any suspicious spots on your skin.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma, also known as BCC, is the most common type of skin cancer but also the least deadly. The majority of cases can be easily treated with early detection. However, if left untreated, BCC may cause disfigurement and damage surrounding tissues.

Skin Cancer Prevention Techniques

While skin cancer prevalence may be on the rise, the good news is there are many prevention techniques you can easily adopt that will help you to avoid this unfortunate diagnosis.

  1. Avoid Tanning Beds: Tanning beds emit harmful UV rays that can increase the risk of skin cancer, among other harmful effects. Avoid using tanning beds and opt for self-tanning products or spray tans.
  2. Seek Shade: When spending time outdoors with unprotected skin, seek shade under trees, umbrellas or other types of sun protection.
  3. Perform Regular Self-Examinations: Keep an eye on any moles, freckles or strange spots on your skin, and monitor them for any changes in size, shape or color. If you notice any changes, consult a dermatologist for further evaluation. Read our blog on self-exam tips for the full breakdown!
  4. Apply SPF 30+ Daily: It likely comes as no surprise that sunscreen is your best defense against the sun’s harmful UV rays. When choosing your sunscreen, always opt for formulas that are SPF 30+ and remember to apply it daily. (Yes, even on cold or cloudy days!)
  5. Get Regular Skin Exams: Schedule regular skin exams with a board-certified dermatologist, especially if you have a family history of skin cancer or have had previous skin cancer diagnoses.

Questions to Ask Your Board-Certified Dermatologist 

It’s natural to have questions when faced with a diagnosis. However, while the internet (outside of our blog) might contain a vast amount of information, it is not always the most reliable. That’s why it’s vital to seek out a board-certified dermatologist who can diagnose your condition and provide guidance and support throughout your treatment.

Some questions to ask your dermatologist after a skin cancer diagnosis include the following:

With the help of your dermatologist, you can feel confident in navigating your diagnosis and moving toward a healthy, cancer-free future.

Charleston Dermatology Is Here For You

Why wait for issues when you can prevent them from appearing? At Charleston Dermatology, our board-certified dermatologists are always ready to provide compassionate care, reliable service and skin care guidance to help Lowcountry neighbors live happy, healthy lives. Contact us today to schedule your next dermatology appointment!

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