Cancer Care

Skin Cancer

Video: Mariana Phillips, M.D. discusses the importance of protecting your skin from the sun.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in our country, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the U.S. and affecting more people than breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer combined. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer and can be deadly unless caught in the early stages. Fortunately some of the other forms of skin cancer do not spread to other parts of the body, and all are responsive to early treatment.

Sun exposure is known to be the single, most important risk factor for developing skin cancer; however, trauma, infection and X-ray exposure can also increase risk. People diagnosed with skin cancer should take special precautions to protect themselves from the sun by using sun block every day, wearing sun-protective clothing and avoiding midday sun.

The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.


There are many options available for managing skin cancer. Usually, the type of cancer, its location and size, and your prior history will help determine which procedure is best. Your age and general health are also considered.

Treatment methods include:

  • Curettage and electrodessication, removing the damaged tissue by scraping and burning with an electric needle
  • Cryosurgery, freezing the tumor, usually with liquid nitrogen
  • Excision, cutting out the tumor and suturing the wound, or closing the wound with a graft or flap from another area of the body
  • Radiation therapy, using superficial X-ray or other radiation
  • Topical chemotherapy, applying creams that attack the cancer cells or stimulate the immune system
  • Mohs micrographic surgery, microscopically controlled excision


Traditionally offered only at large, academic institutions, Mohs surgery is the most thorough and effective surgical treatment for the most common forms of skin cancer. It allows for not only the lowest likelihood of recurrence but also the best cosmetic outcome. Carilion is proud to have a Mohs fellowship-trained dermatologist on staff, allowing members of our community to have access to this advanced technique without having to travel long distances.