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Skin Cancer Basics

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and in the sun-intense state of Florida, skin cancer is particularly prevalent. If you, a family member, or a friend has been diagnosed with skin cancer, learning more about this disease can help you to understand and plan your treatment. When diagnosed and treated early, 99% of skin cancers can be cured.

Dr. Alysa Herman has extensive education, training, and experience focused specifically on Mohs micrographic surgery – the most effective treatment for most types of skin cancer. Based in Miami, she is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon whose focus is screening, educating, and treating patients with this serious condition.

Early detection and treatment can save lives. Request a consultation online today, or call (305) 444-4979 to schedule your appointment with Dr. Herman.

Meet Dr. Alysa Herman

If you've been diagnosed with skin cancer, you need a physician who is exceptionally qualified, experienced and compassionate. Dr. Herman is renowned among physicians and patients for her credentials and her dedication to patient care.

Request a consultation

If you've been diagnosed with skin cancer, you need a physician who is exceptionally qualified, experienced and compassionate. Dr. Herman is renowned among physicians and patients for her credentials and her dedication to patient care.

Request Your Consultation

What Is Skin Cancer?

Normal skin cells grow, develop, and die in predictable cycles. In contrast, skin cancer develops when the normal skin cell cycle changes. Rather than dying, the damaged DNA in skin cancer cells causes them to continue growing, resulting in more abnormal cells. In addition, these cells tend to invade other tissues.

Causes of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer most frequently results from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which harms the DNA with repeated exposure. In addition to repeated exposure to UV light outdoors, you are at increased risk of skin cancer if you:

  • Frequently use tanning beds
  • Regularly smoke cigarettes
  • Have a suppressed immune system, such as if you suffer from leukemia or are an organ transplant recipient, because your immune system cannot ward off cancerous cells as effectively as healthy individuals

Types of Skin Cancer

About 99% of diagnosed cases consist of the 3 most common skin cancer types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. In addition to the general descriptions provided here, it is important to recognize that skin cancer can have many presentations and varying characteristics. Should you notice any significant skin changes, consult immediately with a dermatologist specializing in skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Accounting for about 80% of all diagnosed skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma is the most common type. It starts in the skin cells located in the lowest part of the epidermis, which are known as the basal cells. According to the American College of Mohs Surgery, basal cell carcinoma generally appears on sun-exposed areas and may look like a blemish that won't heal or a shiny, pearly bump that does not go away. It may bleed if minor trauma occurs to that area. Alternatively, basal cell carcinoma may look like a rough, reddened patch.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Forming just below your skin's surface in the squamous layer, this form of skin cancer is the second most common type and tends to be more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma. In addition to occurring on sun-exposed areas of your body, it also may appear in other regions, such as the genitals and mucous membranes. Squamous cell carcinoma typically looks like a red, crusted bump or rough, scaly patch, and the American College of Mohs Surgery reports that it sometimes is mistaken for a patch of dry skin or a wart.


Although it accounts for approximately 3% of skin cancer cases, melanoma is the most dangerous type; more than 75% of skin cancer-related deaths result from melanoma. It begins in the cells that produce pigment (melanocytes), which account for the color of your hair, eyes, and skin. Often developing in an existing mole or appearing to be a new mole, melanomas typically are brown to black lesions that, according to the American College of Mohs Surgery, have uneven borders, colors, or surfaces. When they appear on sun-damaged skin such as the face, melanomas may look like a brown patch or unevenly colored freckle. Cure rates are very high if these types of skin cancer cells are detected early. When it spreads to other areas, however, the rate of cure is lower.

Early Detection

In addition to learning details about skin cancer, it's important to schedule regular appointments with a dermatologist who can examine your skin carefully to look for any suspicious areas. Early detection of skin cancer can save lives. Learn more about skin cancer symptoms and diagnosis.

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