We’re excited to announce we’ve merged with Grossmont Dermatology


Skin Cancer

Your health is our top priority for the experts at Coastal Skin and Eye Institute in San Diego, CA. Patients typically come in two to three times per year for a professional evaluation based on their history. An annual skin cancer check is a minimum.

Consequently, it is imperative that you be vigilant checking for early symptoms of skin cancer from head to toe once a month. Considering that about 3.3 million Americans are treated for nonmelanoma skin cancers each year, and another 197,700 for melanomas, it is also vital to know about available treatments.

Cancer facts

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world. The number of skin cancers exceeds the number of all other cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.

All types of skin cancer are serious – they have the potential to cause disfigurement or become fatal. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, the survival rate for non-melanoma skin cancers is 95%. If melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads, 99% of people survive.

What causes skin cancer?

Skin cancer begins when skin cells grow out of control and spread. Exposure to ultraviolet light (sunshine) is directly linked to most skin cancers, and San Diego County gets about 263 days of sun each year.

What are the types of skin cancer?

Nonmelanoma skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas.

Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs)

Basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) are the most common type of skin cancer. While they rarely spread to vital organs, BCCs are serious. This type of skin cancer can be quite disfiguring and cause damage to nerves and muscles. Basal cell carcinomas frequently mimic other conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, so it is essential to have any skin abnormalities examined by a dermatologist promptly. Both cumulative lifetime sun exposure and occasional sunburns contribute to BCCs. They most often occur on face, scalp, ears, neck, shoulders, and back.

Watch for:

  • An area that looks something like a scar – flat and firm, and pale or yellowish in color.
  • A raised reddish patch that itches.
  • Small pearly bumps in translucent pink or red, possibly with darker areas.
  • A pink growth with a depressed center and raised edges, with spoke-like blood vessels extending outward.
  • Oozing or crusted areas that won’t heal or recur.
  • Several of these features in one lesion.

Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs)

Squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) like BCCs, are most often seen in sun-exposed areas of the body. However, SCCs may also develop on lips, backs of hands, mucous membranes, genitals, skin sores, and scar tissue. Squamous cell carcinomas represent uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis. They can spread quickly and are sometimes deadly.

They appear as:

  • Scaly red patches that may bleed or crust over.
  • Oozing open lesions that resist healing or heal and then reappear.
  • Growths that resemble warts.

Because SCCs may also present as flat areas that look only slightly different from surrounding skin, professional evaluation is critical.


Melanomas are the result of UV- damaged DNA in skin cells. They multiply rapidly in melanocytes – cells that produce pigments – into a malignant tumor. Most melanomas are caused by intense, sunburn-type exposure.

Melanoma warning signs include:

  • Mole-like growths that look or feel different than other moles, especially those that are brown or black. However, melanomas may be white, skin-toned, pink, red, blue, purple, or multi-colored.
  • The border is uneven or scalloped.
  • The lesion is not symmetrical – one half looks different than the other.
  • The growth is larger than a pencil eraser.
  • Any traits change – shape, size, elevation, color, itching, bleeding, or crusting.

Melanomas will be responsible for more than 9,000 deaths in this country this year alone. If you notice any of the above symptoms, please schedule an appointment at Coastal Skin and Eye Institute in San Diego, CA, right away.

What are the treatment options?

The team at Coastal Skin and Eye Institute is trained and experienced in a wide range of skin cancer treatments. Care is highly personalized, using the least invasive method that will get the best results. Treatment may involve topical or oral medications, photodynamic therapy, laser surgery, cryosurgery, surgical excision, curettage and electrodesiccation, or radiation therapy.

Dr. Christopher Crosby is a fellowship-trained Mohs micrographic surgeon. This precise technique removes suspicious tissue one thin layer at a time, under microscopic examination, until no cancerous cells remain. It has the highest cure rate for BCCs, SCCs, and some melanomas. Furthermore, Mohs surgery causes the least trauma for a smaller wound, faster healing, and less scarring.

It is important to know about early symptoms of skin cancer and treatments in San Diego, CA because the incidence rate is high in this sunny climate. Contact Coastal Skin and Eye Institute to schedule your skin cancer screenings. With offices in Carmel Valley, Encinitas, and La Mesa, we provide expert dermatology care near you.

Coastal Skin & Eye Institute/Grossmont Dermatology