Skin Cancers: Questions & Answers

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Skin cancers are by far the most common type seen (especially in California). The most common types of skin cancers are squamous and basal cell. Fortunately they are usually readily treatable and rarely fatal.

Patients often have a variety of choices for treating skin cancers. Countless small skin cancers are frozen, burned, shaved, excised, and treated every year by primary care doctors and dermatologists. Sometimes, skin cancers become larger, or involve the face or parts of the body where those treatments may be inappropriate.

For many decades, superficial radiation therapy has been favored for these types of skin cancers, for several reasons:

  • Control rates with modern radiation therapy are similar to what is achievable with aggressive surgery.
  • Organ function is usually not affected. (For example, an eyelid skin cancer can be treated without removal of the eyelid.)
  • Most patients heal without scarring.

Due to the excellent cosmetic results radiotherapy offers, many patients prefer radiation therapy over disfiguring surgery for treatment of skin cancers on the face. This is a personal decision, and your doctor will discuss your options with you.

The National Cancer Institute provides a wealth of in-depth information on skin cancer at