San Mateo, CA dermatologist explains types of skin cancer and treatment options

Our skin is our largest organ and is also the one that is most exposed. Our skin possesses the unique trait of being in contact with both external and internal elements, which can have a profound impact on its health. While many patients seek the care of a dermatologist for aesthetic concerns, it is extremely important to monitor the skin regularly for signs of skin cancer. Skin cancer will affect nearly one out of five Americans at some point, which is why it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms.

At Allura Skin & Laser Center in San Mateo, CA, we have a team of dermatologists who are all trained in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancer

Actinic Keratoses

These pre-cancerous spots are a common problem for individuals with fair or light skin. The red or brown spots are usually identified because they do not seem to ever heal. In most cases, actinic keratoses can be treated with cryotherapy or creams.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

The most common type of cancer, basal cell carcinomas often look similar to pimples, leaving them to go unnoticed for many individuals. Eventually, the pimple-like lesion will graduate to a larger area of skin that is shiny and may appear to look like a scar. The cause of basal carcinoma is excessive UV exposure.

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Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma can be a potentially deadly form of cancer. Less common than basal cell, squamous cell is also caused by UV exposure. These types of cancers usually appear as a scaly patch of skin and can eventually form into a bump or sore that will not heal. This type of cancer is aggressive, requiring early detection for the most optimal outcome.


Melanoma is the type of skin cancer that is typically associated with a mole that changes in shape, color, or size. Melanoma can potentially spread to other organs of the body and can be deadly if not caught early and treated properly. Melanoma spots are typically brown or black in appearance, although they can also be flesh-colored.

Mohs skin cancer treatment

Image of a lady with clear skin

Mohs is a highly specialized, precise, and accurate treatment option for all types of skin cancer, although it is most commonly used for basal and squamous cell. The Mohs technique was developed over 8 decades ago as an alternative to invasive excisions. The goal of Mohs is to remove only the cancerous tissue, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue intact. Mohs has one of the highest cure rates for skin cancers, even for those who are facing a recurrence. At Allura Skin & Laser Center we have an expertly trained Mohs micrographic surgeon on staff.

The Mohs technique involves removing the cancer in stages. During each stage, a thin layer is removed and then evaluated through a microscope. This process is repeated until all the cancer has been successfully removed.

It is difficult for your physician to predict how much cancerous tissue will be removed prior to receiving the Mohs surgery. This is because skin cancers can often extend much deeper than they appear on the surface.

Mohs is an outpatient procedure that does not require general anesthesia. The area to be treated will be marked and thoroughly numbed prior to beginning treatment. The entire visible area of cancer is removed along with a thin layer of surrounding tissue. If there is any cancer in the surrounding tissue, another thin layer is removed.

Mohs is extremely effective for cancers that have a high recurrent rate and those that are located in places of aesthetic concern, such as the face. Although all surgeries have the potential for scarring, Mohs often leaves scars much smaller than alternative forms of excision.

As with any type of cancer, it’s important to discuss your treatment options with your physician so you can determine the option that is best for you.

Early detection is crucial

Yearly dermatological exams along with monthly self-evaluations are the best way to identify melanoma. If you notice any moles that are painful or bleeding, it should be examined professionally.

With early detection, skin cancer can be an extremely treatable disease. For more information on keeping your skin healthy please call us today. If you are in the San Mateo, CA, call Allura Skin & Laser Center today at (650) 344-1121 to learn more about the different types of skin cancer or to schedule your yearly skin exam.


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