Russell Akin, MD | Board-Certified Dermatologist | Board-Certified Mohs Surgeon | Skin Cancer Specialist | Midland, Texas

*The content provided in this post is for informational purposes and does not diagnose or treat any medical conditions or diseases. Always seek guidance from a physician regarding any medical concerns you may have.

Although skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, it is typically also very treatable and has successful treatment rates. However, melanoma, the third most common form of skin cancer, is far more aggressive, deadly, and tends to spread more easily throughout the body if not caught in the early stages of development. In this blog, I answer the frequently asked question, “What makes melanoma different from other forms of skin cancer?” Check out the full interview on our YouTube channel.

What Makes Melanoma Different from Other Forms of Skin Cancer?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that originates from normal melanocytes. Essentially, melanoma is caused when those types of cells begin to “go out of control.”

Outside of a few genetic and inherited syndromes, where patients are at increased risk for melanoma, the two biggest factors that come into play for melanoma-type skin cancer are skin type, or how much protective melanin that you have in your skin, and also sun exposure (UV exposure) over time.

Skin Type & Melanoma Risk

As far as skin type goes, people who have at least some pigmentation in their skin are much less likely to develop skin cancer, in comparison to people with fair complexions. When I say “fair complexion,” I mean people with blonde hair, red hair, blue eyes, light-colored skin, etc., which are caused by a person’s level of “melanin” in the skin, hair, and eyes.

There are two types of melanin: 1. Pheomelanin, which is not very protective at all when it comes to preventing or avoiding ultraviolet (UV) DNA damage at the cellular level, and 2. Melanin, which reflects or refracts light. With melanin, there’s not as much cellular damage that occurs within the cells, unless you have UV light exposure over the course of time. Whether it’s UV light exposure from being outdoors, or a higher UV-intensity level with tanning beds, the thing with UV light exposure is that it causes a change in the DNA structures within the skin cells, which predisposes you to developing skin cancer.

What are the Different Types of Skin Cancer?

While there are a variety of different types of skin cancer, including very rare skin cancers, the three most common types of skin cancers are 1. Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), 2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), and 2. Melanoma, which only makes up about 10% of skin cancers, but melanoma is the most deadly out of those three skin cancers.

For more information regarding skin cancer removal and treatment options at Midland Dermatology, visit our Skin Cancer Treatments page or check out our Facebook or Instagram page for helpful skincare tips and education. At Midland Dermatology, we offer Mohs surgery and Xoft Brachytherapy to treat skin cancer. Mohs surgery is considered one of the best options for skin cancer removal, as it only removes thin layers of cancer-infected skin until cancer-free skin remains, while Xoft is a painless, non-surgical option to treat non-melanoma-type skin cancer. 

Schedule an Appointment!

Russell Akin, MD, RPh. FACMS, FAAD, is a board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon who specializes in skin cancer treatments and other dermatological procedures with patients ages 12 and up at Midland Dermatology in Midland, Texas. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Akin, or any of the providers at Midland Dermatology, please call 432-689-2512.

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