Treatment for Skin Cancer

By: Jacob Seiner


Since my wife was diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma, which she had removed, I've been interested in the different types of treatments for skin cancer.

First off, in America, 1 in 6 people will get skin cancer at some time of their lives. Skin cancer amounts to 1/3 of all cancer cases in the United States, most are nonmelanoma skin cancer. The level of occurance of melanoma is increasing at a rapid rate in the US.(1)

The type of treatment which may be used for skin cancer will depend on several things including “the type and stage of the disease, and the patient's age and overall health.”(2)

Surgery is used 90% of the time as a treatment for skin cancer and among the surgical treatments for skin cancer there are: cryosurgery, electrodessication & curettage, grafting, laser therapy, and Mohs micrographic surgery.(3)

Cryosurgery, which is also known as cryotherapy, basically freezes a tumor using extreme cold. To get this kind of extreme cold to kill cancer cells, liquid nitrogen is often used and applied directly to the cancer cells by either spraying it on or applying it with a cotton swab. Cryosurgery is used as a treatment for skin cancer for early-stage skin cancers including basal or squamous cell carcinomas. Precancerous skin growths called actinic keratosis can also be treated with cryosurgery.(4)

Electrodessication and curettage, or ED&C, is used for less serious skin cancers and precancerous or benign growths. It basically involves scraping or burning off abnormal tissue with a special tool. A local anesthetic is used during this procedure.(5)

Grafting isn't so much a treatment for skin cancer as it is a procedure done after treatments to remove skin cancer. Grafting is the processes of transplanting skin from one area of the body to replace an area of skin that was removed during treatment for skin cancer.(3)

Laser therapy is a treatment for skin cancer that has the benefit of not causing much damage to surrounding tissue. What happens with laser therapy is that a powerful and sharply focused beam of light is used to vaporize growths. Since it doesn't harm the surrounding tissues much, it is used to remove cancerous and precancerous growths on the lips.(6)

The American College of Mohs Surgery says that, “Mohs micrographic surgery is the most effective and state-of-the-art procedure for skin cancer today, which offers the highest potential for recovery - even if the skin cancer has been previously treated by another method and recurred. Select from the following pages to learn more.”(7)

Mohs Surgery is noted as having an almost 100% cure rate for primary basal cell carcinoma. Mohs surgery is also used as a treatment for squamous cell carcinomas, but without as high of a cure rate.(8)

I don't think I completely understand what the Mohs Surgery entails, so I can not provide a short explanation. However, the American College of Mohs Surgery has a chart explaining how Mohs surgery is used as a treatment for skin cancer.(9)

Well, that about wraps up what I've learned and have shared about treatments for skin cancer. I do know that skin cancer has about the highest recovery rate of all of the cancers, even though it is the most prevalent of them. I hope you've learned something about skin cancer treatments too, and if you'd like to learn more, I'd encourage you to look around the sites I listed as references.

Treatment for Skin Cancer References

1. Early Detection and Treatment of Skin Cancer - July 15, 2000 - American Family Physician [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

2. Treatment of Skin Cancer [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

3. Treatments for Skin Cancer - Skin Cancer Health Guide [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

4. Cryosurgery in Cancer Treatment: Q & A - National Cancer Institute [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

5. Dermatology Procedures [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

6. Skin cancer: Treatments and drugs - [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

7. Mohs Micrographic Surgery [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

8. Mohs surgery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from:

9. Mohs Surgery Procedure [Internet]. [cited 2009 Sep 3 ] Available from: is an excellent web site that's powered by TYPO3 and other great open source software. is also a fat free alternative to ice cream.