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When Is Skin Cancer Life-Threatening?

Posted on: August 18th, 2023 by Dr. Christopher Crosby

Skin cancer is one of the most prevalent forms of cancer; fortunately, it also has one of the highest survival rates. However, do not assume that you do not need to worry about skin cancer, because it can be fatal. In fact, someone in the United States dies of skin cancer every half hour. To help you better understand the risks that skin cancer poses, the expert team of doctors at Grossmont Dermatology Medical Clinic in La Mesa outline when skin cancer can be life-threatening.

Certain Types Are More Lethal

The term “skin cancer” refers to a few different types of cancer, none of which affect your body equally. Melanoma is an aggressive form that can quickly spread to your organs when not caught and treated urgently. In advanced stages, melanoma is most likely to become fatal, especially if it has spread to the lungs, liver, or brain.

Merkel cell carcinoma is another more aggressive form of skin cancer, though it is significantly less common. Here, a tumor (nodule) grows quickly on the face or neck of older patients. Even with treatment, Merkel cell carcinoma can easily spread to the lymph nodes, where it can then move on to vital organs.

All Skin Cancer Can Be Fatal Without Treatment

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer. The reason that these types are easier to survive is that treatment is highly effective when caught early. Generally, these skin cancers only become life-threatening when they reach advanced stages. This likely means that the patient ignored signs of skin cancer and procrastinated on seeking medical attention.

To maximize your chances of surviving skin cancer, meet with a dermatologist to discuss new, changing, or unusual moles/growths. A doctor can monitor your skin and provide a diagnosis so that you know for sure if you are facing any threats. Early treatment (which tends to be much easier) can prevent the spread of cancer, which is the main reason it becomes fatal.  

Preventing cancer altogether is even better. While you cannot guarantee that you will not develop cancer, you can certainly reduce your odds by staying out of the sun during peak UV hours (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) and protecting yourself with sunscreen, sunglasses, hats, and clothing when you are outdoors in the sun.

Visit the Skin Cancer Experts

Another way to improve your odds of surviving cancer is to seek care from experienced dermatologists who specialize in skin cancer detection and treatment. Grossmont Dermatology Medical Clinic has the best collection of doctors in Southern California. To schedule an appointment, please call (619) 462-1670.

Coastal Skin & Eye Institute/Grossmont Dermatology