Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC)- basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma –is the most common types of skin cancer. More than three million Americans will develop one of these skin cancers every year, and rates are alarmingly on the rise. The overall incidence of basal cell carcinoma increased by 145 percent and the overall incidence of squamous cell carcinoma increased by 263 percent between 1976-1984 and 2000-2010. Anyone can be at risk.

While melanoma, the potentially fatal form of skin cancer, tends to garner all of the headlines, basal and squamous cell skin cancers may grow and spread, potentially leading to disfigurement and even death. When detected early, however, these skin cancers are highly treatable – and this is where new guidelines from the American Academy of Dermatology (http://www.AAD.org) come in.

Surgical treatment — excision, Mohs surgery where your doctor removes the skin cancer layer by layer and checks each layer under a microscope until it’s all gone, or curettage and electrodessication — is the most effective option for most cases of NMSC, the guidelines state. In some cases, however, doctors may consider other treatments, such as cryotherapy (freezing), radiation or topical therapy to remove the cancer.

In addition, the guidelines also offer follow-up recommendations for individuals who have been diagnosed with basal and squamous cell skin cancers, including an exam to check for new skin cancers at least once a year and judicious use of sun screen and vigilant sun protective behaviors.

Dr. Rizk’s observations:

These guidelines are welcome news. There is a pervasive myth among consumers that if it’s not a melanoma, it’s the “good kind of skin cancer.” There is no good type of skin cancer. As a physician, I cannot stress this enough. When squamous cell skin cancer grows, it can invade deeper tissue and result in deformity, disfigurement and even death. As a double board certified facial plastic surgeon, I have performed reconstruction following MOHS skin cancer removal surgery. The nose is such a prominent feature on the face, which means that great care must be taken to ensure that scarring does not occur and that the nose will retain its original appearance and the desired shape.

While early diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer are essential, prevention is incredibly important for all of us. Seek shade especially when the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., wear protective clothing when in direct sunlight, and use and reapply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF50 365 days a year, even in winter and cloudy weather. UV rays are everywhere. If you see something that doesn’t look right, to go see a board certified dermatologist to have it evaluated. Don’t wait until your annual skin cancer screening exam. And never ever tan. A tan is a burn, plain and simple. Besides increasing risk for skin cancer, the sun’s rays are also a major cause of premature aging.