Skin Cancer Experts in Southern Colorado
At Vanguard Skin Specialists, we prioritize the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. We offer every patient a total body skin exam. Across all our offices, patients with skin cancer are seen and treated promptly. We see patients with concerning lesions within 10 days. Often, we add on patients the same day if we are concerned about melanoma. This is why we treat thousands of skin cancers every year at Vanguard.
About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US. Each year, doctors diagnose over 3 million Americans with non-melanoma skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma), while another 87,000 will be diagnosed with melanoma.
Skin cancer occurs when healthy cells within the epidermis, or outer layer of skin, change and grow out of control. This uncontrolled growth eventually forms a tumor, which can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (harmless).
Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate. People of all colors and races get skin cancer, although light-skinned people who sunburn easily have a higher risk.
Sun exposure and a history of childhood sunburns are the main causes of most skin cancers. In some cases, skin cancer may be prevented. Skin cancer that is detected and treated early is curable. That’s why it’s important to have routine skin exams by a dermatologist. Untreated skin cancer can cause disfigurement or death if it spreads to other parts of the body.
With early diagnosis, skin cancer can usually be cured with topical medications applied to the skin, procedures done in the office by a dermatologist, or a relatively simple surgery. As a result, skin cancer is responsible for less than 1% of all cancer deaths. At Vanguard Skin Specialists, we specialize in skin cancer diagnosis and treatment. Our providers will begin with a total body skin exam to detect any areas of concern and biopsy any suspicious lesions to check for abnormal skin cells.
Comprehensive Skin Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment
Vanguard takes a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer:
- Board-certified physicians across multiple specialties work together to care for you – dermatology, dermatopathology, Mohs surgery, plastic surgery, and facial plastic surgery
- Mohs surgery provides up to a 99% cure rate for most types of skin cancer
- Dermatopathologist on site ensures accurate and timely diagnosis
- Plastic surgeons ensure optimal cosmetic results
Because most skin cancers are curable if detected early, our dermatologists believe in early detection. We offer priority appointments for skin cancer so that patients with confirmed skin cancer or changing moles are seen first. We also offer total body skin exams to all our dermatology patients to help ensure early detection.
If you haven’t had a skin exam lately, now is the time to call Vanguard Skin Specialists at (719) 355-1585 for an appointment with one of our dermatologists. Most skin cancers can be cured if caught early. For your convenience, we have three offices in Colorado Springs (Briargate, Broadmoor, Northgate), as well as offices in Canon City, Pueblo and Woodland Park. You can also use our online appointment request form. Learn more about skin cancer in the FAQs below.
There are three common types of skin cancer:
There are other less common forms of skin cancer, but these three comprise what we see most often. BCC is by far the most prevalent, representing 80% of all skin cancers, and we diagnose and treat basal cell carcinoma every day in the office. However, melanoma accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths.
The most superficial layer of skin is called the epidermis. The epidermis is like a wall of bricks, with different types of brick layers. The innermost layer of the epidermis contains small round cells called basal cells. The basal cells continually divide, and new cells constantly push older ones up toward the surface of the skin, where they are eventually shed.
As cells move up in the epidermis, they get flatter, becoming squamous cells. The epidermis also contains melanocytes. These cells produce the pigment melanin, which gives skin its color.
Most skin cancers occur when one of these cell types develops a mutation and becomes cancerous, which causes them to continue dividing and to potentially invade deeper tissues. If the cancerous cell is the basal cell, then the cancer is called basal cell carcinoma. If the cancerous cell is the squamous cell, then the cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma. If the cancerous cell is the melanocyte, then the cancer is called melanoma. Melanomas are fast growing and aggressive cancers that can quickly spread to other areas of the body.
If you develop a lesion called actinic keratosis (plural = actinic keratoses), this is not skin cancer but it is considered pre-malignant. Actinic keratosis can potentially develop into skin cancer, so we recommend having it treated with a simple procedure called cryosurgery, which involves freezing it with liquid nitrogen.
If any of the following apply to you, it’s time to schedule your dermatology appointment:
- If you have a mole that is asymmetrical, has irregular borders, has multiple colors, or changes over time
- If you have a spot that just won’t heal or go away
- If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer and have not had a total body skin exam within the past year
- If you are an adult who has never had a total body skin exam
Non-melanoma skin cancer (NMSC), which includes basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, is highly prevalent. It is estimated that over 5 million new cases of NMSC are diagnosed each year, with one in every 5 Americans having the disease at some point in their lives. NMSC is more prevalent than all the other human cancers combined.
The primary reason for the increased incidence of skin cancer is that the American population is aging. People aged 55 to 75 have about a 100-fold higher incidence of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) than those younger than 20. As Americans live longer we will continue to see the incidence of skin cancer rise.
Americans also have more cumulative exposure to UV radiation from outdoor activities and the use of tanning beds. While hiking, biking, golfing, and other outdoor activities are good for our health, we must take precaution by using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing.
The incidence of skin cancer in Colorado is among the highest in the country because of the high altitude. At 6,000 feet Coloradans live closer to the sun and enjoy over 300 days of sunshine every year. It is no wonder that we have a 30% higher incidence of skin cancer.
No. One skin cancer cannot turn into another. If not treated, one skin cancer can grow and even spread to other sites on the body, but it will always be the same type of skin cancer.