Skin cancer

An estimated 40-50 percent of fair-skinned people who live to age 65 will develop at least one case of skin cancer during their lifetime. At Intermountain, we know it’s important to identify these cases of cancer before they grow serious. Proper skin care includes having an annual skin exam. We perform these annual screenings and can detect signs of possible skin cancer during the exam. Most insurance providers cover this type of examination.

Skin cancer is a broad term used to define several types of cancer including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma. These types of cancer generally start as a precancerous lesion, or changes in the skin that are not cancerous, but could become cancerous over time.

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer, but is far less common than squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. When caught early enough, these cancers can be effectively treated. In later stages, malignant melanoma is potentially fatal and treatment is difficult. Signs of melanoma include a change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area.

Mole evaluation and removal

Moles are flat or raised growths on the skin. A typical mole is usually smooth, round or oval, and no larger than a pencil eraser. Moles can be anywhere on the body and generally appear before the age of 20. Most moles are benign (non-cancerous). However, abnormal moles can develop into melanoma over time if they are not treated. Getting appropriate treatment means first identifying abnormal moles.

In addition to a physician evaluation, patients can also learn the “ABCDE’s” of skin cancer and mole detection. Those who have any of the following signs of skin cancer should talk to their doctor immediately:

  • Asymmetry: When one side of the mole does not match the other side. A normal mole should have two uniform sides.
  • Border: The edges of the mole are blurry, ragged, or irregularly shaped.
  • Color: The mole is made up of different shades or colors. These colors may include tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red.
  • Diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: The mole changes shape, size, or color over time. The mole is different from other moles on the body.

Pre-cancerous and suspicious lesions of the skin may require biopsy. Proven skin cancers can generally be removed surgically, followed by reconstruction performed by one of our surgeons. During these procedures, our surgeons strive to provide a comfortable experience with excellent outcomes. Often, pathologists will be involved to ensure that all cancer is completely removed.