What Is Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?

Doctor inspecting a patient's arm

Skin cancer (or carcinoma) is a disease that originates in the patient’s skin cells. There are several types of skin cancer, including melanoma, which is the most serious but also one of the less common types. The other, more common types of skin cancer are known as non-melanoma skin cancers. What is non-melanoma skin cancer? It is a broad term referring to any type of skin cancer not originating in the melanocytes (melanin-forming skin cells). The most commonly diagnosed types of non-melanoma skin cancer are Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma. 

What Is Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Caused By?

Typically, non-melanoma skin cancer is caused by too much sun exposure. It can also be brought on by the use of tanning beds or sun lamps, which is why individuals are so often told to protect their skin when out in the sun and avoid tanning beds and sun lamps altogether. 

What Is the Diagnosis Process for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?

Non-melanoma skin cancer is often easy to spot. Typically, it will appear as a growth on the skin that changes in shape, size, and color. It could be a sore that never fully heals, or a mole that begins to show signs of an altered appearance. These growths are commonly found on the nose, head, neck, shoulders, back, breast, and chest – the areas that, for most people, see the most sun. A dermatologist will get a sample of the skin growth, called a biopsy, which is sent to a lab and tested for cancer cells.       

Am I at Risk for Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer?

According to non-melanoma skin cancer facts from the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation from the sun is strongest during the middle of the day, and artificial UV radiation (from tanning beds or sun lamps) is just as dangerous. Individuals who are at a higher risk of non-melanoma skin cancer include:

  • Those with fairer skin that burns easily
  • Males
  • Individuals who are over the age of 40
  • Individuals who have a family history of non-melanoma skin cancer, or who have had it before themself

How Is Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Treated?

A non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosis can be alarming, but patients can feel some peace of mind knowing that it is very curable. There are even several treatment options for Squamous cell carcinoma and Basal cell carcinoma to consider:

  • Surgery: This is one of the more common treatment methods. Your doctor will numb the skin of the affected area, then cut out the cancer. 
  • Topical Therapy: Using this method, one of several types of medicine is applied directly to the skin growth to destroy the skin cancer cells. 
  • Radiation: This method is non-invasive, using Superficial Radiotherapy to deliver a precise and calibrated dose of radiation just below the patient’s skin surface.

Ask About Radiation Therapy With GentleCure

For many non-melanoma skin cancer patients, surgery is the first treatment option they’re offered following their diagnosis. But it’s not always the most viable solution, as it leaves a scar, requires antibiotics and the stopping of medications like blood thinners, and is the most invasive treatment requiring cutting into the skin. 

If you are seeking a non-invasive alternative that leaves no scarring and has a lesser impact on your daily life, you may be interested in learning more about Image Guided Superficial Radiotherapy (IG-SRT). IG-SRT combines Superficial Radiotherapy with Ultrasound Imaging, creating a more precise and targeted form of radiation therapy for skin cancer. To learn how IG-SRT works and what to expect from the treatment, please call 312-987-6543 to speak with a skin cancer information specialist. IG-SRT is available in many locations across the country.