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Posts for tag: Skin Cancer

By Dr. Charles Bohle, Bohle Family Dentistry
August 06, 2013
Tags: Skin Cancer   Melanoma   Squamous Cell  

Skin Cancer and Dentistry: Everything You Need to Know    By: Lauren Hapeman

Out of several types of skin cancer, two can be detected clinically by an oral health professional: squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. Both types originate from separate layers of the skin, and they also differ in appearance, the way that they spread, the types of treatment that are given, and their survival rates. It is important to receive a brief intra-oral exam from your oral health professional at every appointment to ensure that the tissues are healthy and that no types of skin cancer are present on the lips, tongue, cheeks, or gums. Due to their ability to detect cancerous lesions early, oral cancer screenings save lives literally every day.

Malignant Melanoma

Skin cancers can fall into two categories (depending on whether or not they are deadly): melanoma and non-melanoma. Malignant melanoma is a dangerous type of skin cancer that, if not detected and treated immediately, can spread to other sites in the body. It is responsible for 85% of all skin cancer deaths. Unlike other types of skin cancer, malignant melanoma spreads in a vertical direction, making excision less discrete. As malignant melanoma spreads, prolonged radiation therapy becomes a necessity. In the mouth, ulcers that are malignant melanoma are red, blue, or purple. They are also raised and can bleed easily. The main cause of malignant melanoma is excessive tanning or exposure to the sun. As melanocytes, the cells that produce the melanin pigmentation, receive excessive UV exposure, they can become irregular and metastasize, resulting in cancer. Exposure to UV rays is a consequence of simply being outdoors, but wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher can prevent malignant melanoma.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

A less serious, but nevertheless caustic condition is squamous cell carcinoma, which originates in the stratum germinatum, or bottom layer of the skin. Unlike malignant melanoma, the prognosis for squamous cell carcinoma is fairly good. Of course, there is a better outlook for lesions that are diagnosed early, as they typically have not spread. Squamous cell carcinoma is caused by exposure to UV radiation through natural sources, like sunlight, or artificial sources, such as tanning beds. This particular type of skin cancer can also be caused by extreme exposure to heat, which is a consequence of smoking pipes and other tobacco products. When used together, alcohol and tobacco products present a greater risk for skin cancer than simply using one or the other by itself. Squamous cell carcinoma can be detected as a dark red, pink, or purple raised lesion that feels scaly in texture. It can be found on most skin surfaces (the ears, neck, nose, and lips) or in the oral cavity. Following a positive diagnosis, treatment includes cryotherapy (freezing of the lesion), surgical excision, and skin creams. If the squamous cell carcinoma spreads to other areas of the body, radiation treatment may be necessary, but is not common.

In general, skin cancers can be treated with a high success rate. Oral health professionals play an invaluable role in detecting, assessing, and referring patients to have suspicious lesions checked by dermatologists. Early detection of lesions can often mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful treatment.