Category: Skin Cancer

Why is Merkel Cell Carcinoma So Dangerous?

Merkel cell carcinoma is a very rare type of skin cancer—but it’s also one of the most aggressive.

What is Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is named after the Merkel cells, which are located at the base of the outermost layer of the skin. Merkel cells play a pivotal role in our sense of touch. MCC originates when these cells start to grow uncontrollably.

One of the defining traits of MCC is its aggressive nature. It grows rapidly and has the potential to spread to other parts of the body at an accelerated pace. Compared to other skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, MCC stands out for its severity and the challenges it presents for early detection and treatment.

What Causes Merkel Cell Carcinoma?

The primary cause behind the malignant transformation of these cells remains largely unknown. However, researchers have identified a connection between the Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV) and a majority of MCC cases. In addition, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light, a weakened immune system, and certain genetic factors can also contribute to the development of MCC.

What Makes Merkel Cell Carcinoma So Dangerous?

Here are 5 reasons why Merkel cell carcinoma is considered one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer:

  • Aggressiveness and rapid growth. Unlike some other forms of skin cancer that might take years to present noticeable symptoms, MCC can manifest and grow visibly within weeks. The rapid growth of malignant cells means that a timely diagnosis is even more crucial.
  • Difficult early detection. One of the most challenging aspects of MCC is its ability to go unnoticed in its early stages. Its initial presentation might be as innocuous as a small, painless lump on the skin. Patients might dismiss it as a simple cyst or another harmless skin anomaly. MCC’s deceptive nature means that by the time the carcinoma is diagnosed, it may have already advanced to a more severe stage.
  • Unexpected locations. MCC’s ability to grow in areas that aren’t as frequently exposed to the sun, such as the buttocks or thighs, means that it might go unnoticed until it reaches an advanced stage.
  • Risk of metastasis. MCC is notorious for its ability to metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body. When the cancer cells invade the lymph nodes, there is an increased risk of cancer traveling to distant organs, making treatment more complex and reducing the potential for a full recovery.
  • High recurrence rate. Even after successful treatment, patients with MCC face the threat of recurrence. MCC has a higher propensity to return compared to many other types of skin cancer, so regular checkups and monitoring are very important after the initial treatment.

How is Merkel Cell Carcinoma Treated?

When Merkel cell carcinoma is identified and addressed properly, the chances of a successful recovery are significantly heightened. However, a delay in diagnosis can mean the need for more aggressive treatments and a potentially less favorable outcome.

If detected in its nascent stage, the prognosis for MCC can be considerably improved. Early treatment often involves surgical removal of the tumor to ensure that the cancer doesn’t get the opportunity to spread to other parts of the body. Radiation therapy might also be recommended to eliminate any remaining cancer cells to help reduce the risk of recurrence.

Contact Franks Dermatology for a Skin Evaluation

Merkel cell carcinoma is a perfect example of the unpredictable—and often formidable—challenges posed by skin cancers. Its swift growth, potential for metastasis and recurrence, and deceptive initial presentation make it crucial that it is detected and treated in time.

Regular appointments with your dermatologist are an essential step in detecting skin cancer. If you or a loved one has concerns about any skin anomalies, don’t hesitate to contact Franks Dermatology. Call us at (501) 246-1042 to schedule an appointment at our Little Rock office. Our dedicated team of experts will be on your side through detection, diagnosis, and treatment.

Are There Treatments for Skin Cancer Besides Surgery?

Surgical interventions have long dominated the treatment of skin cancer. However, there are also several non-surgical treatments for skin cancer that have developed as the medical world has learned more about this complex condition.

Topical Treatments for Skin Cancer

Also known as chemotherapy cream, topical treatments for skin cancer are applied directly to the lesion. One example of a topical treatment for skin cancer is 5-fluorouracil (5FU), which stops cancer cells from making and repairing DNA.

When to Consider Topical Treatments for Skin Cancer

These types of treatments are ideal for early-stage skin cancers, as well as precancerous lesions that are located superficially on the skin. As a result, these treatments have become an effective solution for superficial basal cell carcinomas and actinic keratoses.

Keep in mind that a topical treatment for your skin cancer may not be right for you if your lesion is large in area or goes deep beneath your skin.

What to Expect from Topical Treatments for Skin Cancer

Patients apply the chemotherapy cream to the lesion as prescribed. Redness, inflammation, and soreness—similar to a sunburn—are common reactions. The duration of the treatment varies, but patients typically notice changes within a few weeks.

Radiation Therapy for Skin Cancer

Radiation therapy damages the DNA within cancer cells by harnessing high-energy particles or waves, such as X-rays. Once this DNA is damaged, the cancer cells are unable to grow and divide.

When to Consider Radiation Therapy for Skin Cancer

Radiation therapy is often used when surgery isn’t an option due to the tumor’s location or health conditions that make surgical intervention risky. It is also used when cancer recurs after surgery.

What to Expect from Radiation Therapy for Skin Cancer

A patient is carefully positioned while the radiation machine—often a linear accelerator—is adjusted to target the cancer site. A custom-made mold or cast might be used to keep you still during the treatment. Although the procedure itself is painless, some patients describe warmth in the treated area, as well as a faint metallic taste in the mouth.

The number of sessions required will vary depending on the cancer type, size, and location. The treatment’s efficacy will be gauged over several sessions, often stretching over a few weeks.

Immunotherapy for Skin Cancer

Immunotherapy is the process of amplifying the body’s natural defense mechanisms against cancer cells. Topical immunotherapies like imiquimod stimulate the immune system to recognize and attack cancerous skin cells.

When to Consider Immunotherapy for Skin Cancer

Immunotherapy is ideal for early-stage skin cancer, especially when a patient would like to preserve maximum skin integrity and avoid surgical scars.

What to Expect from Immunotherapy for Skin Cancer

Patients apply imiquimod cream to the affected area. It may result in inflammation, itching, or even a mild burn as it stimulates the immune cells to target the cancer. The duration of treatment varies based on the cancer’s extent and the body’s response.

Cryotherapy for Skin Cancer

Cryotherapy uses the extreme cold that liquid nitrogen produces to destroy cancerous skin cells. The rapid freezing and slow thawing process work to eliminate the targeted cells.

When to Consider Cryotherapy for Skin Cancer

Cryotherapy works best for small, superficial skin lesions. It’s less invasive than surgery and leaves minimal scarring, making it a preferred choice for lesions on cosmetically sensitive areas.

What to Expect from Cryotherapy for Skin Cancer

Your healthcare professional will apply liquid nitrogen to the lesion using a spray device or a cotton-tipped applicator. As the skin begins to thaw, there is a sharp, cold feeling, as well as a possible stinging or burning sensation.

After the treatment, the frozen lesion forms a scab that falls off within a few weeks. The skin beneath heals and, over time, returns to its natural color, though sometimes a white mark may remain.

Contact Franks Dermatology to Find the Right Skin Cancer Treatment for You

Skin cancer has several complexities that require a comprehensive understanding for effective treatment. Combined with the specific nuances of each patient’s needs, preferences, and medical history, there is no one universally applicable treatment for skin cancer. Fortunately, the experts at Franks Dermatology have the knowledge and experience required to analyze each of these factors and guide you in understanding the risks, benefits, and potential outcomes of each treatment.

If you notice a suspicious lesion or worrying change in your skin, don’t hesitate to call Franks Dermatology at (501) 246-1042. Our team of dedicated experts will perform the appropriate biopsy, obtain an accurate diagnosis, and help you start down the path toward safe, effective healing.

When Does Skin Cancer Need Surgery?

Skin cancer has layers of complexity that can affect a dermatologist’s approach in terms of diagnosis and treatment. One of the most commonly asked questions about skin cancer treatment is whether or not a patient will require surgery. Although the answer ultimately requires a doctor’s consultation, here are some general guidelines that may indicate whether skin cancer may need surgery to remove.

Understanding Skin Cancer

Skin cancer begins when the DNA in our skin cells gets damaged, leading to mistakes or mutations in their genetic code. These cells may grow faster than they should and group together to form harmful growths or tumors.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. In general, the more we expose our skin to these UV rays, the higher our chances of developing skin cancer. Your family’s genetics may also impact your susceptibility to skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancer & Their Surgical Interventions

Skin cancer can take many forms. Each type of skin cancer has its own unique look, behavior, chances of spreading, and response to different forms of treatment.


Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma derive from the epidermal layer of the skin.

  • Basal cell carcinoma may require surgery when lesions present characteristics like a pearly appearance, raised borders with central ulceration, persistent bleeding, or non-healing sores.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma may require surgery if lesions show firmness, scaly or crusted surfaces, central ulcers, or rapid growth.

The surgical excision technique for each type of carcinoma involves removing the cancerous tissue along with a margin of healthy skin to ensure a thorough elimination of the cancer.


Melanoma is a more aggressive skin cancer that stems from pigment-producing cells. Surgery may be required when melanomas exhibit features like asymmetry, irregular borders, multiple colors, or a large diameter.

Similar to carcinoma, melanoma requires excision along with a margin of healthy skin. However, melanoma excisions often need to be wider to ensure the complete eradication of cancerous cells.

Contact Franks Dermatology About Surgery for Skin Cancer

The experts at Franks Dermatology provide comprehensive examinations and diagnostic tools to enable you to make informed decisions about your skin health. If the time comes to treat skin cancer, our team will discuss proposed interventions, potential outcomes, and recuperation timelines.

Early detection and intervention are essential for successful treatment of skin cancer. If you notice any suspicious changes in your skin, call Franks Dermatology at (501) 246-1042 right away to get started on a treatment plan that fits your preferences and medical needs.


What Happens During a Skin Cancer Biopsy?

Picture this: you notice a suspicious spot on your skin—a freckle that has changed in shape, a mole that looks irregular, or a lesion that doesn’t seem to heal. You schedule an appointment with a healthcare professional. 

After a thorough examination, they suggest a skin cancer biopsy. But what exactly does that entail? Over the next few moments, let’s go through the process of a skin cancer biopsy, unraveling the steps involved and providing you with a deeper understanding of what happens during this crucial diagnostic procedure.

What is a Skin Cancer Biopsy?

When it comes to skin cancer diagnosis, biopsies are the gold standard. It is a procedure that involves extracting a small sample of potentially affected skin tissue and examining it. 

This process allows healthcare experts to assess whether a skin irregularity is benign or malignant, as well as the kind, stage, and other crucial aspects of cancer. It’s an important step toward more personalized treatment and better patient outcomes. (1)

Preparing for a Skin Cancer Biopsy: Knowledge is Empowerment

Preparation for a skin cancer biopsy and open conversation with your healthcare provider are essential. Your doctor will go over the biopsy method and its goal with you after your initial examination. 

They will talk about your worries, address any questions you may have, and address any dangers or consequences. This open communication makes sure that you are fully aware of the situation and ready for what comes ahead.

Different Types of Skin Cancer Biopsy Procedures: Unveiling the Techniques

There are several biopsy procedures commonly used to diagnose skin cancer. Your situation may vary, and it will be up to your doctor to determine which particular biopsy will work best for you. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the most common. 

Punch Biopsy

Imagine a small, circular tool—like a cookie cutter—that gently extracts a cylindrical sample from the affected area. This minimally invasive procedure is typically performed under local anesthesia. The punch biopsy lets you examine an entire cross section of the skin, top to bottom, providing crucial information. It can be very useful for diagnosing basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

During a punch biopsy, your healthcare professional will cleanse the area and administer local anesthesia to ensure your comfort. With the punch tool, they will press into the skin, capturing a sample of the suspicious tissue. 

After the sample is obtained, the area may be dressed or left to heal on its own. A pathologist will examine the sample under a microscope in a laboratory after sending it there for analysis.

Shave Biopsy

In a shave biopsy, a sharp blade is used to remove the superficial layers of the skin, including the suspicious area. This procedure is typically performed with local anesthesia. Shave biopsies are effective for evaluating superficial lesions, such as melanoma in situ or superficial basal cell carcinoma. (2)

As you undergo a shave biopsy, your healthcare professional will cleanse the area and administer local anesthesia to ensure your comfort. Using a scalpel or similar instrument, they will gently shave off the superficial layers of the skin, capturing the suspicious tissue. 

The procedure is usually quick and does not require sutures. After the biopsy, the area may be dressed or left uncovered. The sample will be sent to a laboratory for examination.

Excisional Biopsy

An excisional biopsy is a surgical procedure that involves the complete removal of the suspicious area, along with a margin of healthy tissue. This procedure is typically performed under local anesthesia or with sedation. Excisional biopsies are commonly used for larger or suspected malignant skin lesions. (3)

During an excisional biopsy, your healthcare professional will carefully plan the incision to encompass the entire suspicious area. They will administer anesthesia, remove the tissue, and close the wound with sutures. The excised sample will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Incisional Biopsy

In certain cases, when complete removal of the lesion is not feasible or practical, an incisional biopsy may be performed. This procedure involves the surgical removal of a portion of the suspicious area for further examination. (4)

During an incisional biopsy, your healthcare professional will carefully remove a representative portion of the lesion.

What Happens During a Skin Cancer Biopsy

When the day of your skin cancer biopsy arrives, you may experience a mix of emotions – anticipation, nervousness, or even a sense of relief for finally taking a step towards diagnosis. Rest assured, you are in the capable and caring hands of medical professionals who are experienced in performing skin cancer biopsies. 

Understanding what to expect during the procedure can help alleviate any apprehensions you may have. Here’s a detailed look at the journey you will embark upon:

Arrival at the Medical Facility

Staff members at the medical facility will welcome you and walk you through the procedure. They understand the importance of creating a welcoming environment and will do their best to ensure your comfort.

Preparing the Biopsy Site: Sterility and Cleanliness

Before the procedure begins, the healthcare professional will meticulously prepare the biopsy site. They will cleanse the area with an antiseptic solution to create a sterile environment, reducing the risk of infection. They may cover the surrounding skin with sterile drapes, leaving only the biopsy site exposed. (5)

Administration of Anesthesia: Numbing the Area

To ensure your comfort during the biopsy procedure, local anesthesia will be administered. The healthcare professional will carefully inject the anesthesia near the biopsy site. Your discomfort throughout the treatment will be kept to a minimum thanks to the anesthetic, which will momentarily numb the area. (5)

Biopsy Procedure is Performed

Once the anesthesia has taken effect, the healthcare professional will skillfully perform the chosen biopsy technique. Whether it is a punch biopsy, shave biopsy, excisional biopsy, or incisional biopsy, they will follow established protocols and guidelines to ensure precision and accuracy. (5)

During the procedure, you may feel some pressure or slight tugging sensations as the tissue sample is obtained. However, due to the administration of anesthesia, you should not experience any pain. It is essential to communicate with the healthcare professional throughout the procedure, informing them if you are experiencing any discomfort.

Post-Biopsy Care Instructions

After the biopsy, the healthcare professional will provide you with specific instructions on how to care for the biopsy site. They will explain any dressing changes, wound care techniques, and potential activities to avoid. For best healing results, it’s important to follow all instructions to reduce the risk of potential complications.

You may also receive guidance on managing any post-procedure discomfort or pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescribed medications may be recommended to help alleviate any lingering soreness or tenderness. It is important to follow the healthcare professional’s advice and contact them if you have any concerns or questions during the healing process.

Potential Discomfort and Pain Management: Your Comfort Matters

After the biopsy, it is common to experience some discomfort or mild pain at the biopsy site. This is typically manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers or as recommended by your healthcare professional. Applying a cold compress to the area may help reduce swelling and alleviate any localized pain. (5)

However, if you experience severe or prolonged pain, excessive bleeding, signs of infection, or any other concerning symptoms, it is crucial to reach out to your healthcare professional for guidance.

Remember, everyone’s experience with a skin cancer biopsy is unique, and the level of discomfort can vary. Some individuals may have minimal discomfort, while others may experience more pronounced sensations. 

Open communication with your healthcare professional throughout the process will ensure that your comfort is prioritized and appropriate measures are taken to address any concerns.

Final Thoughts

Undergoing a skin cancer biopsy can be an emotionally charged experience. However, by understanding what to expect during the procedure, you can approach it with confidence and a sense of preparedness. The expert hands of healthcare professionals will guide you through each step, ensuring your comfort and well-being. 

Embrace the journey, knowing that a skin cancer biopsy is a crucial and necessary path towards diagnosis and effective treatment. Seek professional evaluation for any suspicious skin lesions, and let the expertise of the medical team pave the way for a brighter, healthier future.


  1. Biopsy | Medical Diagnosis & Procedure. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  2. Shave biopsy. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. 
  3. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). National Cancer Institute. 
  4. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). National Cancer Institute.
  5. Biopsy. (2013, March 18). Cancer.Net. 

Common Biopsy Procedures for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer affects millions of people globally, as well as countless loved ones and partners who accompany them on their journey. Because of the potentially significant consequences, it is critical that they be addressed swiftly and correctly.

To achieve that result, precise skin cancer detection and therapy rely primarily on biopsy procedures. Biopsies are performed by removing questionable skin tissue samples, which are then analyzed under a microscope to discover malignant cells. 

In the following sections, we will provide a thorough explanation of biopsies, their purpose, and the most common biopsy procedures used to diagnose skin cancer.

Understanding Biopsies: Unveiling the Secrets of Skin Cancer

Biopsies are critical diagnostic tools for a variety of medical disorders, most notably skin cancer. These methods let doctors determine whether aberrant alterations in skin cells are benign or malignant. (5) Pathologists can determine the particular type and stage of skin cancer by painstakingly scrutinizing biopsy samples, providing critical information for tailored treatment approaches. 

Types of Biopsy Procedures: Exploring the Realm of Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Few things are more critical than a biopsy for correct diagnosis and treatment outcome tracking. One size does not fit all. Your doctor will choose from a variety of biopsy procedures based on your specific situation. Let’s look at a few of the most common.

Punch Biopsy: A Precise and Targeted Approach

A punch biopsy is a popular method for identifying skin cancer. It entails using a circular tool, similar to a cookie cutter, to extract a small cylindrical sample from the afflicted area.
This minimally invasive treatment is often conducted under local anesthesia. (2)

The punch biopsy allows for an evaluation of an entire cross section of the skin, providing comprehensive details about the lesion. It is particularly beneficial in the diagnosis of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

To ensure the patient’s comfort, the healthcare professional washes the region and delivers local anesthetic during a punch biopsy. The punch instrument, which comes in various sizes depending on the desired sample diameter, is then driven into the skin at a perpendicular angle, taking a sample of the questionable tissue. The device is gently rotated to form a cylindrical core, which is then carefully lifted and removed. Following the collection of the sample, the region may be bandaged or allowed to heal on its own. (2)

The punch biopsy sample is forwarded to a laboratory for analysis. Pathologists analyze the tissue under a microscope, looking for any aberrant cellular changes that could suggest the presence of cancer. The pathologist can determine the type of skin cancer and its features, such as the pace of cell development and infiltration into adjacent tissues.

Punch biopsies are indicated when there is a suspicion of non-melanoma skin malignancies such as basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma. These skin tumors frequently have defined borders, making punch biopsies ideal for getting exact samples. They provide crucial information on the type and extent of the cancer, which aids in treatment planning. Additionally, punch biopsies are frequently painless for patients and are possible in an outpatient setting.

Benefits of a punch biopsy

One advantage of punch biopsies is that they produce a full-thickness sample, allowing pathologists to evaluate the deeper layers of the skin. This complete evaluation allows for a more precise determination of the characteristics of the malignancy and aids in selecting the most effective treatment plan. Furthermore, punch biopsies are straightforward and rapid procedures with little recuperation time. (3)

One disadvantage of punch biopsies is that they may not catch the full area of bigger lesions. Several punch biopsies may be required to collect representative samples from different places if the suspicious area is larger or irregularly shaped. In some circumstances, additional testing or biopsies, such as an excisional biopsy, may be required to fully assess the extent of the disease. (3)

Shave Biopsy: A Smooth Approach to Skin Cancer Diagnosis

Another frequent approach for identifying skin cancer is a shave biopsy. It entails removing the top layers of skin, including the questionable area, using a sharp blade. Local anesthetic is usually used for shave biopsies. This approach can detect superficial lesions like melanoma in situ or superficial basal cell cancer. (1)

To ensure patient comfort, the healthcare practitioner washes the region and delivers local anesthetic during a shave biopsy. The questionable tissue is then captured by carefully shaving off the superficial layers of skin using a scalpel or similar device.

To ensure that adequate tissue is retrieved for an accurate examination, the shave depth is managed. Sutures are usually not required, and the operation is usually rapid. 

When there is a suspicion of skin cancer in lesions that are mostly superficial, shave biopsies are advised. They are especially useful for detecting melanoma in situ, a type of skin cancer that only affects the skin’s outermost layer. Shave biopsies give important information regarding the depth and features of the lesion, which might help guide future treatment options.

Benefits of a shave biopsy 

Shave biopsies have the benefit of being generally rapid and simple procedures. These can be done as an outpatient procedure, and the recovery time is usually short. Shave biopsies also allow for the examination of wider areas, resulting in a more comprehensive representation of the questionable tissue. (1)

The healthcare practitioner carefully manages the depth of the shave during a shave biopsy to get an appropriate sample for analysis. Shave biopsies, which remove the superficial layers of the skin, can reveal aberrant cell development patterns, cellular atypia, and other skin cancer-related characteristics. This information is critical in choosing the best treatment strategy and ensuring the best possible patient care.

Furthermore, shave biopsies have the advantage of leaving little scarring. Because only the top layers of skin are removed, the resulting wound is frequently tiny and heals with little scarring. This is especially useful when the biopsy site is in a cosmetically sensitive area, such as the face or neck.

Going Deeper for a Comprehensive Diagnosis

Excisional biopsy is a surgical method that involves removing the worrisome area completely, including a margin of healthy tissue. Depending on the size and location of the lesion, this treatment is often performed under local anesthetic or with sedation. Excisional biopsies are frequently performed on larger or suspected malignant skin lesions. (4)

The healthcare professional carefully plans the incision for an excisional biopsy to include the entire questionable area as well as a small margin of normal tissue. Incision size is going to depend on a lesion’s location and particular characteristics. The excised tissue is then removed, and the wound is sutured up. The removed sample is forwarded to a laboratory for further analysis.

Benefits of an Excisional Biopsy 

Excisional biopsies provide several advantages. Firstly, they offer a complete evaluation of the lesion, allowing pathologists to assess the extent of the cancer. This information is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment approach, such as whether additional surgery or other treatments are necessary. Excisional biopsies can also be used as an intervention. If the area is small enough, you might be able to remove the affected tissue at the time of the biopsy, eliminating any additional need for treatment. (5)

One limitation of excisional biopsies is that they may leave a larger scar compared to other biopsy techniques. The size of the incision required to remove the entire lesion often results in a larger wound, which can lead to more prominent scarring. However, it is important to balance aesthetic concerns with the need for accurate diagnosis and treatment. (5)

Additionally, excisional biopsies require a longer recovery time compared to less invasive biopsy procedures. In order to promote proper healing and reduce the risk of complications, patients may need to adhere to specific wound care instructions.

Despite these limitations, excisional biopsies provide valuable information for the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. They allow for a comprehensive evaluation of the lesion and are particularly suitable for larger or suspected malignant skin lesions. 

The decision to perform an excisional biopsy is made based on the characteristics of the lesion, its location, and the overall clinical context, ensuring that the most appropriate diagnostic approach is taken for each individual case.

Final Thoughts: Empowering Patients in the Fight against Skin Cancer

In conclusion, biopsies play a crucial role in accurately diagnosing skin cancer. By understanding the various biopsy procedures available, individuals can familiarize themselves with the process, potential benefits, and limitations of each technique. 

This knowledge empowers patients to actively engage in discussions with healthcare professionals, facilitating personalized treatment plans and improved outcomes. If you notice any suspicious skin lesions, remember to seek medical attention promptly, as early detection and intervention are key in the battle against skin cancer.


  1. 1. Shave biopsy. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic.
  2. 2. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). National Cancer Institute.
  3. Nischal, U., Nischal Kc, & Khopkar, U. (2008). Techniques of skin biopsy and practical considerations. Journal of cutaneous and aesthetic surgery, 1(2), 107–111.
  4. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. (n.d.). National Cancer Institute.
  5. 5. Biopsy | Medical Diagnosis & Procedure. (n.d.). Encyclopedia Britannica.

10 Year-Round Skin Cancer Prevention Tips

Skin cancer is an extremely common form of cancer, affecting millions of people worldwide each year. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will contract some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. The good news is that many cases can be prevented through consistent habits.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, but it’s important to practice good prevention habits year-round. Here are 10 tips you can use every day to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Apply Sunscreen Every Day

Applying sunscreen daily is an essential step in protecting your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, even on cloudy days. It’s also the step people forget most often. Experts recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

It’s important to apply a liberal amount of sunscreen to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, and ears. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to often-overlooked areas, such as the lips, scalp, and the backs of your hands. Apply it to the tops of your feet if you’re going barefoot and the backs of your shoulders if you’re wearing a sleeveless top.

You should apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. If you plan to swim or get wet, you’ll need a water-resistant sunscreen.

It’s never too late to start using sunscreen regularly—it can prevent further damage and reduce your risk of cancer. Even if you forget every once in a while, making a regular habit of applying sunscreen can have a massive impact over time.

Continually Apply Sunscreen Throughout the Day

Despite popular opinion, sunscreen isn’t always a once-a-day routine. It should be reapplied at least every two hours, and immediately after swimming or sweating. UV radiation is strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM, so be extra vigilant about reapplication during these times of day.

If the idea of applying sunscreen more than once a day seems daunting, there are some things you can do to make it easier. For example, using a lip balm with SPF and a spray-on sunscreen for your scalp can improve coverage and speed up the application process.

Protect Your Skin with Clothing

One of your best friends in the fight for healthier skin is layers. Clothing can serve as a crucial barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays. Wearing things like long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats can provide additional protection from UV radiation.

Invest in sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them. Look into wearing clothing with a built-in ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating for added peace of mind, especially if you spend significant time outdoors.

Take Advantage of Shade

Seeking shade during peak sunlight hours can help reduce your exposure to harmful UV radiation. This can dramatically cut down on key risk factors.

When possible, choose a shady spot under a tree, umbrella, or other structure to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. While shade alone may not provide complete protection, it can help when used in combination with other measures like sunscreen and clothing.

Skip the Tanning Bed

As appealing as receiving an instant tan may be, data shows that tanning beds produce more negatives than positives. Tanning beds emit concentrated UV radiation, which can significantly increase your risk of developing skin cancer—including melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.

To achieve a sun-kissed glow while reducing the risk associated with tanning beds and direct sun exposure, try using a self-tanning product or getting a spray tan. But be sure to continue applying sunscreen daily, as these alternatives don’t provide sun protection.

Perform Regular Skin Self-Exams

Performing regular skin self-exams can help you detect skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Once a month, examine your skin from head to toe. Look for any new or changing moles, spots, or growths. It’s a great idea to schedule an annual skin exam with a dermatologist, who can provide a more thorough evaluation and monitor any suspicious areas.

Research Risk Factors Based on Your Skin Type

Every person falls under a particular skin type, and there are risk factors associated with each one. Understanding your skin type and risk factors can help you take appropriate preventative measures.

For example, people with fair skin, light hair, and light eyes are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer. Genetic factors, such as a family history of skin cancer, and environmental factors, like excessive sun exposure, also play a role in determining your risk. It’s even more important to be proactive about sun protection if you fall into a high-risk category.

Practice A Healthy Diet & Lifestyle

A healthy diet and lifestyle can have a positive impact on your skin health and overall cancer risk. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help support your body’s natural defenses against skin cancer.

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of various types of cancer, including skin cancer. Even if you don’t maintain a perfect regimen, working towards a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can be powerful steps in preventing skin cancer.

Stay Up-to-Date with New Research

Awareness and education are essential aspects of the fight against skin cancer. Stay up-to-date on the latest research and recommendations to protect yourself and your loved ones. Many people fail to practice life-saving skin cancer prevention techniques because they simply don’t know any better. Together, we can create a healthier, more sun-savvy society.

Take Extra Precautions if You Have a History of Skin Cancer

If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, it’s especially important to be proactive about prevention. Be diligent about applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade whenever possible. Schedule regular skin exams with a dermatologist to monitor any changes and detect potential problems early.

Taking these extra precautions can help ensure that you stay healthy and minimize your risk of developing skin cancer in the future.

Contact Franks Dermatology Today

By following these tips for year-round skin cancer prevention, you can take charge of your skin health and reduce your risk of this common—but often preventable—disease.

Remember that consistency is key: making small, daily changes to your routine can have a significant impact on your skin health and overall well-being. Be sure to stay vigilant, protect your skin, and enjoy the sunshine in a responsible manner.

If you are looking for a partner in your journey to healthier skin, contact Franks Dermatology in Little Rock. Call (501) 246-1042 to schedule an appointment with our team of experts. We will work with you to determine your risk factors and help plan a personalized skin cancer prevention strategy.

Signs of Skin Cancer: Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a form of skin cancer that can be mistaken for other common skin conditions.

Understanding Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a malignant tumor arising from epidermal keratinocytes. Most of the time, SCC is caused by sun damage. SCC is more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma and has a higher potential to spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.

Risk Factors for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The main risk factor for SCC is sun exposure, especially sunburns in childhood or adolescence. Another risk factor is exposure to certain chemicals and substances, such as tobacco smoke or arsenic. Having fair skin, a family history of skin cancer, or a weak immune system can also contribute to your overall risk of getting SCC.

By knowing the risk factors for SCC, you can take the steps needed to protect yourself. It’s vital to protect the skin from the sun by wearing protective clothing and using sunscreens. It’s also important to not use tanning beds, smoke, or be around toxic chemicals for long periods of time.

Signs & Symptoms of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

There are a wide range of SCC symptoms. Here are the most common to keep an eye out for:

Rough, Scaly Red Patch

A persistent rough, scaly red patch is the most common sign of SCC. It may be mistaken for a non-cancerous skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis. The patch may bleed easily and not heal.

Raised, Firm Red Bump

SCC can also appear as a raised, firm red bump that may be mistaken for a pimple or insect bite. The bump may be tender to the touch and may be larger than a pencil eraser.

Warty Lesion

SCC may present as a rough spot that looks like a wart or callus. The lesion may be rough and raised and have a scaly, crusted surface.

Open Sore That Doesn’t Heal

Keep an eye out for something that looks like an open sore that doesn’t heal and may bleed or ooze. The sore may be crusted or scaly and may be accompanied by itching or pain.

Flat, Scaly Brown Patch

SCC can appear as a flat, scaly, brown or flesh-colored patch that may be mistaken for age spots or freckles. The patch may be asymmetrical and have irregular borders.

It’s important to note that SCC can appear in different forms and may not always have the same symptoms, so it’s a good idea to consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and the appropriate treatment.

Treating Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Because of improvements in medicine and technology, there are now a number of ways to treat SCC. Some of these include:

  • Surgery, which is the most common treatment for SCC, involves removing the cancerous tissue. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, the surgery can be done with either local or general anesthesia.
  • Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It is usually used when the tumor is too large or too difficult to reach for surgery.
  • Topical medications such as 5-fluorouracil are used to slow the growth of cancer cells and reduce the size of the tumor. They can be put on the tumor directly, or they can be used along with surgery or radiation therapy.

Contact Franks Dermatology About Squamous Cell Carcinoma

At Franks Dermatology, our team of specialists is committed to providing client-centered care. We know the importance of early detection and treatment of SCC, and our team will work with you every step of the way to ensure that you receive the best care possible.

When facing SCC, the key to a positive outcome is early detection and treatment. We encourage you to pay attention to the signs of SCC and schedule an appointment with us by calling (501) 246-1042 if you notice any suspicious changes on your skin.

Signs of Skin Cancer: Basal Cell Carcinoma

The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is often caused by prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds. It can also occur in areas of the skin that were previously compromised by radiation therapy, burns, or inflammation.

Understanding Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is a type of skin cancer that develops in the basal layer of the epidermis. Basal cells produce new skin cells and push older cells toward the surface of the skin. When these cells become abnormal, they can divide and grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor.

Signs of Basal Cell Carcinoma

Early detection of BCC is crucial for successful treatment. To increase the odds of catching it early, regular self-assessments are key.

Here are some signs to be on the lookout for when checking your skin for BCC:

Open Sores

BCC can present as open sores that fail to heal even after several weeks. These sores may bleed or crust over and can be tender to the touch. They can appear as an ulceration or erosion on the skin and can be either round or irregular. The edges of these sores are usually not well-defined, and the center of the sore may have a raised, pearly border.

Raised Bumps

Raised bumps on the skin that are pearly or translucent can indicate BCC. These bumps may be itchy or tender and can have visible blood vessels on the surface. They are typically round or oval and range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. A color and/or texture change may accompany them—for example, they may appear reddish or scaly.

Scaly Patches

BCC can appear as scaly patches or plaques on the skin that are red, pink, or brown. These patches may be itchy or painful and may crust over or bleed. They often look like a patch of eczema, psoriasis, or other skin condition. These patches may be round or irregular.

Waxy Bumps

Bumps on the skin that are firm and shiny could indicate BCC. These bumps can be white, pink, or yellow. They often look like a wart or a skin tag. They may be round, oval, or irregular in shape, and they can range in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters.

Flat Growths

Flat, flesh-colored growths on the skin that are scaly or crusty in appearance may be a sign of BCC. These growths may be raised or elevated and may be itchy or painful. They can present in a range of round, oval, or irregular shapes and can span from tiny to a few centimeters in diameter. They often look like a scar or a mole.

Persistent Itching

Another potential symptom of BCC is persistent or recurrent itching in the affected area. However, it’s important to note that this symptom is not unique to BCC—it could also be caused by other skin conditions.

Pain or Discomfort

Some BCCs can cause pain or discomfort in the affected area, especially around the face or near a joint. Other signs may accompany this symptom, such as itching or tenderness.

If you notice any of these signs on your skin, it’s important to schedule an appointment with Dr. Franks as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment of BCC can greatly increase the chances of successful treatment and help prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body.

Treating Basal Cell Carcinoma

There are several treatment options available for BCC. Some of these include:

  • Surgical excision removes the cancerous tumor and a small amount of surrounding tissue. It is usually done under local anesthesia and may require several stitches or a skin graft.
  • Cryotherapy freezes the cancerous tumor using liquid nitrogen, which is applied to the tumor with a spray gun. The liquid nitrogen causes the cells in the tumor to freeze and die. This procedure is commonly done in the office and takes only a few minutes. Cryotherapy is an effective treatment option for small, early-stage BCCs on the skin’s surface that can be easily seen and accessed.
  • Electrodesiccation and curettage involves using a small electric needle to destroy the cancerous tumor and scraping it off the skin with a curette. This procedure is performed in the office and may require one to two treatments.
    • Typically used for small or low-risk BCCs, topical therapy involves applying a cream or gel to the tumor that works to slow down or stop the growth of the cancer cells.
  • Photodynamic therapy involves applying a special cream to the skin which is then activated by a light source. It is often used for BCCs that are located in hard-to-reach areas or that have recurred after previous treatment.

The best treatment option for you will depend on several factors, such as the size, location, and aggressiveness of the cancer, as well as your overall health and preferences. Dr. Franks will work with you to develop a treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Contact Franks Dermatology About Basal Cell Carcinoma

At Franks Dermatology, our team of specialists is committed to providing client-centered care. We understand the importance of early detection and treatment of BCC, and our team will work with you every step of the way to ensure that you receive the best care possible.

We encourage you to pay attention to the signs of BCC and schedule an appointment with us by calling (501) 246-1042 if you notice any suspicious changes on your skin. With the right treatment plan, you can increase the chances of successful treatment and prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of your body.

Signs of Skin Cancer: Melanoma

Melanoma is considered the most severe type of skin cancer. It’s important to recognize the signs of melanoma so you can alert your doctor about any suspicious areas on your skin.

Understanding Melanoma

Melanoma occurs when the cells responsible for producing the pigment of our skin turn cancerous. Although it affects people of any age, it has become much more common in young adults between the ages of 25 and 29. Melanoma is most commonly linked to UV-related damage, which means that excessive sun exposure and artificial tanning can increase the odds of it developing.

Treating Melanoma

The good news is that there are many advanced treatment options for melanoma. Treatment for melanoma is tailored to each patient’s unique situation and depends on many factors, including how early the cancer is detected. Depending on the severity of the melanoma, treatment could include a combination of surgery, radiation, medications, or chemotherapy.

While these options may feel daunting, the team at Franks Dermatology is dedicated to staying on the cutting edge of the most advanced methods available. Each of the treatments we offer to our patients has undergone extensive peer-reviewed clinical trials. We strive to provide the least invasive treatment with the most effectiveness that is appropriate for your situation.

Check Your Skin Each Month

We recommend performing self-examinations of your skin every month. Regular exams provide the highest odds of early detection of melanoma, which can expand your treatment options. These self-exams are simple and can be done in just a few minutes.

The first step in a self-exam is to examine every portion of your body, including your scalp. Becoming familiar with the variations of your skin helps you notice when something unusual appears. If a new growth looks different from the other moles on your body, for example, it is a strong candidate for further examination.

When your self-examination uncovers something new, it’s important to study it carefully. You can do this in the mirror or take a picture. Be sure to take note of unusual skin changes for your next appointment with us.

Signs of Melanoma

Melanoma often first appears as a new or changed mole. Here are some signs that may point to melanoma:


When looking at an unusual growth, does its shape seem irregular? If the mole is uneven or has a “mutated” appearance, it could be a sign that it is cancerous.

Irregular Borders

Melanomas often have borders that are not clearly defined. Pay special attention to growths with notched, irregular, or wavy edges.

Multiple Colors

Benign moles are typically a single shade of brown, whereas melanomas are often much darker than surrounding moles. A melanoma will present with multiple shades of brown, tan, or black. You may also notice shades of red, blue, or white as the spot continues to grow.


Pay special attention to moles that widen rapidly. A warning sign is a mole that exceeds a quarter of an inch in diameter. (That’s about the size of the eraser on a pencil.) If a mole has a large diameter and a dark color, schedule an appointment with us as soon as possible.

Signs of Evolving

Benign growths don’t experience much change from week to week. Melanomas, however, tend to evolve in size, volume, and shape at a seemingly continual rate. Warning signs may also include bleeding, crusting, or itching around the growth site.

Contact Franks Dermatology for a Skin Evaluation

If you notice these signs of melanoma on your body, you may feel confused or frightened. However, you don’t have to face the path ahead alone. Franks Dermatology provides a warm, welcoming, state-of-the-art environment where you can feel confident that you’re in expert hands.

We empower each of our patients with knowledge that gives them comfort and assurance as they undergo screening, diagnosis, and treatment. That’s why our team of specialists takes the time to carefully explain our approach and answer any questions that might arise. It’s part of our commitment to serving and informing our patients so that they’re well-equipped to make important decisions about their health.

If you’ve noticed any of the warning signs of melanoma listed above, contact us so we can assess the situation together. Call (501) 246-1042 to schedule an appointment at Franks Dermatology. Our Little Rock office is conveniently located in the Simmons Bank Plaza building at 4220 North Rodney Parham.