Information Regarding Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer – taking the fear out of this treatable disease:

Know What to Look For:

The three most frequently occurring forms of skin cancer include: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Cancerous Skin Conditions

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It usually appears as a small, fleshy bump or nodule most often on the head, neck, back or chest. Occasionally, these cancers may appear on the trunk as red patches. Basal cell carcinoma tends to run in families. People who have this cancer often have light colored eyes, hair and complexions and don't tan easily. These tumors usually do not spread quickly. It can take many months or years for one to grow to a diameter of one-half inch. If untreated, this cancer will begin to bleed, crust over, heal, and can eventually grow quickly and become very large. Basal cell carcinoma can extend below the skin into the bone or deeper and cause serious local damage. Approximately 750,000 people develop this condition yearly in the U.S.

Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a nodule or as a red scaly patch. They often arise out of actinic keratoses. This is the second most common skin cancer. It too is found in fair skinned persons. Typically, it is found on the rim of the ear, the face, lip and mouth. It is rarely found in dark skinned persons. This skin cancer can grow rapidly and spread throughout the body. Approximately 200,000 people develop this condition yearly in the U.S.

Malignant melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers and will develop on the skin of 44,000 Americans each year. Every year, an estimated 8,000 American will die from melanoma. Like the less aggressive skin cancers, melanoma is almost always curable when detected in the early stages. Melanoma usually begins in the skin cells that produce the dark, protective pigment called melanin. 75% begin in pre-existing moles. Melanoma cells usually continue to produce melanin, which accounts for the cancers appearing in mixed shades of tan, brown and black. Melanoma can also be red or white. Melanoma spreads through both lymph chambers and the blood stream. It may suddenly appear without warning and can occur at any age, even in infants. It is important to know the location and appearance of the moles on our bodies so any change will be noticed. The most important step you can take is to have moles examined by a dermatologist with extensive diagnostic experience so that any early melanoma can be removed before it spreads. Melanoma is least associated with sun damage and tends to be familial.

You can also look for the features below that may suggest a brown spot or mole may be a melanoma. Known as the ABCDs of Melanoma Detection, they include:

  • Asymmetry: one half unlike the other
  • Border: irregular, scalloped or poorly circumscribed
  • Color: varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue
  • Diameter: larger than 6mm as a rule (the approximate diameter of a pencil eraser)

Precancerous Skin Conditions

Actinic keratoses are small scaly spots most commonly found on the face, arms and back of the hands of individuals who have had significant sun exposure. If not treated, some actinic keratoses may become skin cancers, requiring more extensive treatment. If diagnosed in the early stages, these can be removed by cryotherapy (freezing), by applying a cream or lotion form of chemotherapy, or by chemical peeling, dermabrasion, laser surgery, or other dermatologic procedures for removing precancerous growths.

Know if You are at Greater Risk

Patients with fair skin and light eyes are more likely to develop skin cancer; however, it is essential to remember than anyone spending time exposed in the sun is predisposed. Those with medical conditions that cause an increased sun-sensitivity and older adults also have a greater risk of acquiring an actinic keratosis.

Although most skin cancer manifests itself later in life, an increasing number of cases have been reported among individuals in their 20s and 30s, so you are by no means too young for a skin assessment.

Hope and a Solution

About Rustad Dermatology

Dr. Elliott Rustad is a board certified dermatologist who has practiced dermatology in Nebraska for more than thirty-five years. Rustad Dermatology has always had a special interest in the identification and treatment of skin cancer, in the early recognition of abnormal moles that are prone to changing to melanoma, and in the recognition of early melanoma. Dr. Rustad learned the original Mohs technique of removing skin cancer with zinc chloride paste, but was probably the first anywhere to develop fresh tissue Mohs procedure. He is one of the few dermatologists who complete the plastic surgical repair of large cancers on the same day as removal in the office. He is the only dermatologist in Nebraska trained in x-ray, radium, and radon treatment of deep skin cancer. Tens of thousands of pre-cancerous and superficial cancerous lesions have been treated, as well as tens of thousands of cancers, with a near 100% cure rate.

There will be approximately one million new skin cancers diagnosed in America this year and ten thousand people will die. Most deaths will be from melanoma. The best care for melanoma is early detection and correct initial treatment. The ability to recognize early skin cancer accurately and efficiently relates directly to Dr. Rustad's exceptional experience and training.

Although Dr. Rustad has been an exceptionally experienced board certified dermatologist for more than thirty-five years, he is definitely better at early diagnosis now than he was thirty, twenty, or even five years ago.

Nebraska's Mohs Expert

Dr. Rustad brought Mohs technique of microscopically monitored cancer removal to Nebraska. This technique has produced a near 100% cure rate for basal and squamous cell carcinomas. We believe that this office was the first in the nation to employ fresh tissue Mohs technique.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery is a technique used to rid the body of a tumor without destroying any more healthy surrounding tissue than necessary. Dr. Rustad uses a microscope to get to the root of the cancer to ensure exact elimination and lessen the chance of regrowth. Mohs micrographic surgery is now universally recognized as a precise method for treating skin cancers. Mohs is commonly performed on an outpatient basis with a local anesthetic administered to the area around the tumor. Surgery usually begins early in the morning and is finished the same day. Contact our office to discuss how we can assist you in promoting good health.

Committed to Ensuring Your Skin's Health

Rustad Dermatology is dedicated to working with you to combat this serious disease. Cancer removal is done in the office, saving you both the expense and the stress of a hospital or surgical center stay. Plastic surgical repair is done in the office immediately after the cancer has been removed providing the best cosmetic result.

Schedule a Complimentary Clinic

Rustad Dermatology offers free skin cancer detection and mole evaluation clinics to groups of twenty-five or more from hospitals, churches, schools, service clubs, government offices and companies. These clinics can be held on site in your facility, in a Lancaster County health mobile unit or even in our office. We merely need an isolated room and a waiting area. The examination usually evaluates exposed areas such as faces, scalps, necks, arms and legs. We most often view backs, abdomens and chests as well if an individual so desires. In 2007, these examinations produced the discovery of one melanoma per week. Lives are saved when diagnoses are made early.

Should your company or organization wish to avail itself of this important,
proactive wellness program, our office will be delighted to schedule your
examination clinic. We prefer to schedule these clinics during evening or
weekend hours or in our office over the noon hour. Please contact
Michelle Schlegel at for further information.