When people think about skin cancer, they usually think about melanoma; however, basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are much more common, explains Chrysalyne D. Schmults, MD, MSCE, Director, Mohs and Dermatologic Surgery Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. There are approximately 80,000 cases of melanoma in the U.S. each year, versus more than one million cases of basal and squamous cell cancer. Additionally, the incidence of basal and squamous cell cancers is increasing, particularly among younger adults in their twenties and thirties.
While melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell cancers are serious conditions that still need to be treated. Treatment options for cases where basal and squamous cell cancers are limited to the skin’s surface (the epidermis) include topical medications, light therapies, and freezing techniques. In cases where basal and squamous cell cancers have invaded the deeper layers of the skin (the dermis), the affected areas must be surgically removed.
Mohs surgery, a specialized form of skin cancer removal in which the borders are examined by the surgeon microscopically while the patient waits, is a very effective type of surgical treatment for skin cancers. Mohs surgery has a 99 percent cure rate for most basal and squamous cell skin cancers, as well as a high cure rate for other rare forms of skin cancer. Since very little normal tissue is removed during the treatment, specially trained dermatologists are able to reconstruct most wounds with excellent cosmetic results.
Watch this video with Dr. Schmults to learn more about the differences between skin cancer types, risk factors, and treatment options, including Mohs surgery.