Skin Cancer

About Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It’s an abnormal, and uncontrolled, growth of skin cells that develops in areas that are exposed to the sun (though it can form in areas that don’t typically get a lot of sun exposure). Left untreated, these cells can spread to other organs and tissues—why having regular mole checks (every six months to a year is recommended) is critical.

Dr. Dennis Gross has trained, taught, and performed in-depth medical research—with a focus on skin cancer—at world-renowned institutes, such as Rockefeller University and Memorial Sloan-Kettering. His patients come to him for regular mole checks because of his comprehensive background in skin cancer research, prevention, detection and treatment.

“Skin cancer is a disease that should never have serious consequences. The early detection and prompt removal of skin cancer can be lifesaving. Prevention with SPF and early detection are key.”
— Dr. Dennis Gross

The most common precancerous skin growths or lesions are:

Actinic (or solar) keratosis are small, scaly, crusty growths or lesions that are often pink or red in color. They’re found most often on any areas of skin that have had prolonged exposure to the sun over the years (such as the face, scalp, ears, lips, and the backs of the hands). Left untreated, these can develop into cancer.
Dysplastic nevi (pre-cancerous moles) are atypical moles that resemble melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer). Sometimes dysplastic nevi will develop into melanoma—which is why it’s critical to examine your skin regularly and have regular moles checks with a board-certified dermatologist such as Dr. Dennis Gross (who will remove the dysplastic nevi and have it biopsied.) The earlier these are diagnosed and removed, the less chance of developing melanoma. People who have dysplastic nevi are at increased risk of developing melanoma.

There are different types of skin cancer—all of which should be examined and biopsied by our doctors:

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer in the lowest layer of the skin, called the basal layer. It comes in several varieties and usually looks like raised, waxy pink bumps or a pink patch. It rarely spreads.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the type of skin cancer that affects skin cells in the middle layer of the epidermis. It usually looks like red, scaly, rough skin lesions. It may spread and is dangerous if not removed promptly.
Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer but, left untreated, it can spread and be deadly. It occurs in the skin cells that create pigment, called melanocytes. It can develop in moles or lesions that are asymmetrical, have irregular borders, are uneven in color, are larger than a pencil eraser, and have changed over time.

Whatever precancer or skin cancer you might have, rest assured that Dr. Dennis Gross is one of the leading dermatologists who can help assess, biopsy, and diagnose the cancer so you can receive the treatment you need. Remember: the earlier you find skin cancer, the easier it is to treat successfully.




I have dark skin and have never worried about skin cancer, but a friend says anyone can get it. Is this true?

Yes, this is true. While people with a fair complexion—and a history of burning when out in the sun—are at high risk of cancer, any person (including those with darker skin) can develop skin cancer.

Why does exposure to the sun cause skin cancer?

Studies of cells exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light show that it can penetrate the skin, causing DNA damage to the cells and suppressing the skin’s immune function (which fights off illness and disease). Often the body is unable to repair this damage—and the cells begin to mutate, dividing and growing in an uncontrolled way. This eventually forms a tumor.

What can I expect from a full-body mole check?

Expect that your office visit will last about 10 to 15 minutes. This will include a head-to-toe skin exam (you will be asked to undress and wear an office gown) by the dermatologist, accompanied by a medical assistant. The dermatologist will inspect your entire body visually and with a special medial light and magnifying instrument, including on your scalp and between your toes (two hard-to-see places that most people don’t realize skin cancer can occur).

During your visit is a great time to ask about any spots or growths you’re worried about. If the dermatologist finds anything suspicious, he’ll numb the area with a small shot. Then he’ll remove a sliver of tissue to be biopsied by a pathologist at a lab. If the tissue comes back negative, the area is not cancerous. If positive, the dermatologist will discuss next steps with you.

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Knowledgeable in all forms of treatment, Dr. Dennis Gross thoroughly discusses all potential options with each patient, making recommendations on the uniqueness of their case. To book an appointment with Dr. Dennis Gross, contact us at:

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