Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancer—one in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer during their lifetime. Early detection offers you the best chance to realize a cure. Any persistent, growing or crusted abnormal spots that you notice should be checked by one of our dermatology experts.

Preventing skin cancer

It is important to keep your skin health in mind when you are spending time outside. Here are some tips that will help you prevent skin cancer:

  • Avoid using tanning beds.
  • Seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s ray are the strongest.
  • Generously apply sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. This will protect you from both UVA and UVB (ultraviolet A and B) rays. Reapply sunscreen every two hours—or more often if you are active or in water.
  • Wear clothes that cover your skin and a hat that will protect your face, ears and scalp from the sun’s rays.
  • Be aware that the sun’s rays reflect off water, sand and snow. Take extra precaution when you are near reflective surfaces.

Risk factors for skin cancer

Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, though you are at greater risk if you have:

  • Fair skin that burns or reddens easily
  • Light-colored hair
  • Light-colored eyes
  • Family history—or personal history—of skin cancer
  • Regular exposure to the sun in your daily life
  • A history of sunburns or indoor tanning
  • A large number of moles

Recognizing skin cancer

Performing monthly skin checkups is the best way to stay on top of any new marks or changes to your skin. Make sure to do these checkups in front of a full-length mirror. If you have a lot of moles, it may help to take pictures of them each month. This way you can see if any of your moles change over time.

The first five letters of the alphabet are a good guide to the early warning signs of the most serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma:

Asymmetry: Non-cancerous, pigmented spots usually are round and symmetrical. Early malignant melanoma is usually asymmetrical.

Border: The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. Non-cancerous growths usually have regular borders.

Color: A harmless growth is generally one overall color and flat. Cancerous growths often have various shades from tan to brown to black.

Diameter: If the growth is larger than 6 mm—about the size of a pencil eraser—you should have a dermatologist look at it.

Evolving: If the growth is continually changing, it may be a concern.

Treatments we offer

Surgery - Gundersen’s board certified surgeons offer surgeries to remove skin cancer, including a state-of-the-art skin cancer surgery called Mohs surgery. Mohs surgery is a microscopically-controlled surgery that aims to preserve most of your skin, while also delivering the highest possible cure rate—which is 98 percent, the highest of any treatment available.

Chemotherapy – With chemotherapy, our experts use medicine to destroy the skin cancer cells in your body. The medicine can be delivered into a vein but can also be given as a pill, shot or through a catheter.

Radiation therapyRadiation therapy uses pointed X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink or destroy tumors. It can be an option for large tumors or if a tumor is on an area of the skin that makes it hard to remove with surgery. Some patients may have radiation therapy if they are unable to have surgery due to health concerns. Radiation may also be an option for skin cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Love + Medicine

Every day, Gundersen Health System delivers great medicine plus a little something extra—we call it Love + Medicine.

Share Your Story