On January 11, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden had Mohs surgery to remove skin lesions that were found to be basal cell carcinoma. We asked Valley dermatologist Laura Walsh, MD, what you should know about basal cell carcinoma and Moh’s surgery:
What is basal cell carcinoma? How common is it?
Basal cell carcinomas are an extremely common form of skin cancer. They arise from the upper layers of the skin, called the epidermis. There are up to three million cases of basal cells that are diagnosed every year, and it’s much more common in Caucasian patients. The lifetime risk for Caucasian patients is around 30% in some studies. It is much less common for patients who have more darkly pigmented skin.
Why is it important to get regular skin checks with a dermatologist?
It’s important to get regular skin checks with your dermatologist to make sure that you don’t have any of these little skin cancers growing. These more common cancers, like basal cells and squamous cells, don’t typically travel to other places in the body, but they can cause a problem locally, so it’s always better to catch these earlier rather than later.
If you find a concerning mole or other spot on your skin, what should you do next?
If you find a spot on your skin that you are concerned about, or a mole that you feel like is changing, it’s best to reach out to either your primary care physician, or if your insurance allows you to directly schedule an appointment with a specialist, then bring it up to your dermatologist.
What is Mohs surgery and when would a patient have this procedure done?
Mohs surgery is a type of skin-conserving surgery that removes cancerous skin cells. Typically, Mohs surgery is done in areas where you want to preserve as much skin as possible, like areas on the face, hands, and genital region. It is also done for typical skin cancers, such as basal cell and squamous cell. Valley Medical Center has an excellent Mohs surgeon named Dr. Knutson, so we are able to do that procedure here at the Dermatology Clinic.
To prevent basal cell carcinoma, Dr. Walsh recommends, “Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen!” To learn more about sunscreens, please refer to this video and article by David Drimmer, MD, who is another dermatologist at Valley.