A National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

Make an appointment: 800-826-HOPE
Skin Cancer Bookmark and Share

Skin Cancer

City of Hope is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers and
precancerous conditions, including:
 
  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • melanoma
  • rare types such as Merkel cell carcinoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • actinic (solar) keratosis
 
Our multidisciplinary team of health care professionals take an integrated approach to treating this disease by combining the latest research findings with outstanding patient care. This includes using advanced technologies and specialized techniques such as:

  • minimally-invasive surgical techniques (including cryosurgery and curettage & electrodissection) that can remove the cancer with less scarring, reduced discomfort, lower risk of complications and shorter recovery times
  • a specialized plastic surgery team that can restore appearance through reconstructive procedures, sometimes in tandem with cancer treatment
  • highly precise radiation therapy that can target cancer sites with minimal exposure to surrounding normal tissue
  • immune-based therapies that stimulate the body’s defense system to target and fight skin cancer
  • targeted drugs and drug combinations that can treat localized and advanced cancers
 
Additionally, City of Hope patients have access to our extensive team of supportive care experts — including rehabilitation specialists, palliative care physicians and clinical social workers. Working closely with the patient’s primary care team, they can detect and address quality of life issues related to skin cancer and its treatments. This includes managing symptoms (such as pain, nausea and fatigue), maintaining quality of life throughout treatment and adjusting to a post-treatment lifestyle.
 
Learn more about skin cancer types, symptoms, risk factors and diagnostic tests on National Cancer Institute’s website.
 
 
As one of a handful of institutes to attain the elite designation of Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is acknowledged as a leader in research and treatment of skin cancer. With our decades of experience, specialized therapy protocols and extensive program of clinical trials, newly diagnosed or relapsed patients can find a treatment regimen that is tailored to their needs and gives them the best chance for survival. U.S. News & World Report also named City of Hope as one of the top cancer hospitals in the country.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 
 
 

Skin Cancer Team

Skin Self-examination

The earlier skin cancer is found, the better, so we recommend that everyone do a monthly skin examination on themselves to identify potential skin cancers early. 
 
Check yourself from head to toe like this:

Stand in front of a full-length mirror, using a hand-held mirror along with the full mirror to examine hard-to-see places. Carefully look at all areas of your body, including the scalp, back, buttocks, shoulders, backs of the thighs and genitals. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to examine places you can’t see – like your earlobes and the backs of your ears and head.

Knowing the “ABCDEs” of skin cancer diagnosis can save your life.
 
Use these simple guidelines to determine if you need to see a doctor:

 
 
A is for ASYMMETRY:  One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
 
 
B is for BORDER: Normal spots have smooth edges. Cancerous spots may have irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred edges.
 
 
C is for COLOR: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black or sometimes patches of red, white or blue.
 
 
D is for DIAMETER: Most melanomas are larger than 6 mm or 1/4 inch, about the size of a pencil eraser.
 
 
E is for EVOLVING: Melanomas usually change in size, shape or color.  They can also be different in appearance from your other moles.  They may be itchy and painful and may also bleed.
     
     
     
     
If you see one or more of these signs of possible skin cancer, make an appointment with a physician immediately.

Importantly, some melanomas do not fit the ABCDEs described above. Therefore, it is critical that if you detect any changes in the size, shape or color of a skin mark or the appearance of a new spot, get it checked out by a doctor immediately.
 

Other possible skin cancer warning signs include:
 
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A new growth
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
  • Persistent itchiness, tenderness or pain
  • Change in the surface of a mole – scaling, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a bump or nodule
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Treatment Approach to Skin Cancer

City of Hope has one of the most renowned skin cancer programs in the United States, with a multidisciplinary team of medical experts across different fields including dermatology, surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology and supportive care medicine. Together, they work collaboratively to plan and implement a treatment regimen that is individually tailored to the patient to improve survival chances, enhance outcomes, minimize side effects and boost quality of life.

Surgery

Surgical removal of the cancer is typically the first treatment for skin cancer and is often curative for early stage patients. For patients with advanced skin cancer, more extensive procedures (such as removal of nearby lymph nodes) may be necessary, but surgery can still significantly improve survival odds.
 
City of Hope’s surgeons specialize in minimally invasive procedures to treat skin cancers. By using making smaller cuts and fewer incisions, patients experience less pain, recover faster, have shorter hospital stays and are less likely to have post-surgical complications.
 
City of Hope also offers cryosurgery, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy skin cancer cells, and electrodesiccation and curettage, which cuts out the cancerous tissue and uses an electric current to kill remaining cancer cells.
 
The expertise of City of Hope’s surgeons also means that they can minimizing removal of healthy skin tissue, resulting in less scarring. Additionally, our specialized plastic surgery team that can perform reconstructive procedures to restore appearance.
 

Radiation Therapy

For skin cancer, radiation may be to treat any cancer cells that may remain after surgery, or may be used in lieu of surgery if the cancer is located in an area that’s challenging for surgical removal (such as the face).
 
In addition to standard radiation regimens, City of Hope also offers Helical TomoTherapy, an advance technology combining radiation delivery with advanced imaging. This allows the radiation beams to be “sculpted” to the tumor’s size and shape, resulting in more focused radiation on the cancer site while minimizing exposure to adjacent tissues and organs. This can reduce the likelihood and severity of side effects.
 

Drug Therapy

City of Hope uses a wide range of chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs to treat skin cancer. These drugs may be taken orally, intravenously (injected into the bloodstream) or topically (applied on the skin).
 
In addition to standard drug regimens, patients have access to newly developed drugs (or drug combinations) through our clinical trials program.
 
Cancer fighting drugs can also enhance the effectiveness of surgery and can be administered after the procedure to minimize the chance of recurrence.
 
As part of the treatment team, a medical oncologist will evaluate the patient’s cancer, health and other factors, so that the drug therapy regimen can be tailored to the patient throughout the continuum of care.
 

Become a Patient


  If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Skin Cancer Clinical Trials and Research

There is extensive collaboration between City of Hope clinicians and researchers to develop and evaluate new cancer therapies designed to improve survival and quality of life outcomes. City of Hope patients have access to a wide variety of clinical trials ranging from new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, novel surgical techniques, new radiation approaches and strategies to minimize side effects and chances of cancer recurrence.
 
If you are interested in participating in a study, please discuss with your primary doctor about open trials and their eligibility criteria.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Living with Skin Cancer

While our primary goal is to cure or control the disease, another top priority is relieving suffering and discomfort for skin cancer patients undergoing treatments.
 
In addition to curative treatments, City of Hope head and neck patients and their caregivers have access to the broad range of services offered by our Department of Supportive Care Medicine . The department’s staff of professionals, including supportive medicine physicians, support groups and clinical social workers, can help patients and loved ones with a variety of care and wellness issues including:
 
  • Managing cancer or treatment effects such as pain, nausea and fatigue
  • Palliative care to reduce discomfort and stress, physical and mental, throughout diagnosis and treatment
  • Adjusting to new dietary and lifestyle habits following treatment
  • Coping and maintaining emotional/social/spiritual well-being
  • Navigating through the health care system
  • Staying healthy and active during/after treatment
  • Healing arts
  • Building caregiving skills
 
The Department of Supportive Care Medicine is based in City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, which integrates all support services in a central location. The Biller Resource Center provides a warm and welcoming space where patients, families and caregivers can access the resources, education and support they need to strengthen and empower themselves, before, during and after treatment.
 
For more information or to contact the Biller Resource Center staff, please call 626-256-4673, ext. 32273 (3CARE).
 
 
This site includes tips, tools and online resources to help cancer patients and their families with issues that arise during cancer treatment.

Additional Resources
 
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Support this program

It takes the help of a lot of caring people to make hope a reality for our patients.  City of Hope was founded by individuals’ philanthropic efforts 100 years ago. Their efforts - and those of our supporters today - have built the foundation for the care we provide and the research we conduct. It enables City of Hope to strive for new breakthroughs and better therapies, ultimately helping more people enjoy longer, better lives.

For more information on supporting this specific program, please contact our Philanthropy Department at 800-667-5310 or philanthropy@coh.org. Or, to make a gift that supports all the research at City of Hope, donate online now.

 
We thank you for your support.
 
 
 

Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer

City of Hope is a leader in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers and
precancerous conditions, including:
 
  • basal cell carcinoma
  • squamous cell carcinoma
  • melanoma
  • rare types such as Merkel cell carcinoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma
  • actinic (solar) keratosis
 
Our multidisciplinary team of health care professionals take an integrated approach to treating this disease by combining the latest research findings with outstanding patient care. This includes using advanced technologies and specialized techniques such as:

  • minimally-invasive surgical techniques (including cryosurgery and curettage & electrodissection) that can remove the cancer with less scarring, reduced discomfort, lower risk of complications and shorter recovery times
  • a specialized plastic surgery team that can restore appearance through reconstructive procedures, sometimes in tandem with cancer treatment
  • highly precise radiation therapy that can target cancer sites with minimal exposure to surrounding normal tissue
  • immune-based therapies that stimulate the body’s defense system to target and fight skin cancer
  • targeted drugs and drug combinations that can treat localized and advanced cancers
 
Additionally, City of Hope patients have access to our extensive team of supportive care experts — including rehabilitation specialists, palliative care physicians and clinical social workers. Working closely with the patient’s primary care team, they can detect and address quality of life issues related to skin cancer and its treatments. This includes managing symptoms (such as pain, nausea and fatigue), maintaining quality of life throughout treatment and adjusting to a post-treatment lifestyle.
 
Learn more about skin cancer types, symptoms, risk factors and diagnostic tests on National Cancer Institute’s website.
 
 
As one of a handful of institutes to attain the elite designation of Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is acknowledged as a leader in research and treatment of skin cancer. With our decades of experience, specialized therapy protocols and extensive program of clinical trials, newly diagnosed or relapsed patients can find a treatment regimen that is tailored to their needs and gives them the best chance for survival. U.S. News & World Report also named City of Hope as one of the top cancer hospitals in the country.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.
 
 
 

Skin Cancer/Melanoma Team

Skin Cancer Team

Skin Self Examination

Skin Self-examination

The earlier skin cancer is found, the better, so we recommend that everyone do a monthly skin examination on themselves to identify potential skin cancers early. 
 
Check yourself from head to toe like this:

Stand in front of a full-length mirror, using a hand-held mirror along with the full mirror to examine hard-to-see places. Carefully look at all areas of your body, including the scalp, back, buttocks, shoulders, backs of the thighs and genitals. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to examine places you can’t see – like your earlobes and the backs of your ears and head.

Knowing the “ABCDEs” of skin cancer diagnosis can save your life.
 
Use these simple guidelines to determine if you need to see a doctor:

 
 
A is for ASYMMETRY:  One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
 
 
B is for BORDER: Normal spots have smooth edges. Cancerous spots may have irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred edges.
 
 
C is for COLOR: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black or sometimes patches of red, white or blue.
 
 
D is for DIAMETER: Most melanomas are larger than 6 mm or 1/4 inch, about the size of a pencil eraser.
 
 
E is for EVOLVING: Melanomas usually change in size, shape or color.  They can also be different in appearance from your other moles.  They may be itchy and painful and may also bleed.
     
     
     
     
If you see one or more of these signs of possible skin cancer, make an appointment with a physician immediately.

Importantly, some melanomas do not fit the ABCDEs described above. Therefore, it is critical that if you detect any changes in the size, shape or color of a skin mark or the appearance of a new spot, get it checked out by a doctor immediately.
 

Other possible skin cancer warning signs include:
 
  • A sore that does not heal
  • A new growth
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
  • Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
  • Persistent itchiness, tenderness or pain
  • Change in the surface of a mole – scaling, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a bump or nodule
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Our Treatment Approach

Our Treatment Approach to Skin Cancer

City of Hope has one of the most renowned skin cancer programs in the United States, with a multidisciplinary team of medical experts across different fields including dermatology, surgery, radiation oncology, medical oncology, pathology and supportive care medicine. Together, they work collaboratively to plan and implement a treatment regimen that is individually tailored to the patient to improve survival chances, enhance outcomes, minimize side effects and boost quality of life.

Surgery

Surgical removal of the cancer is typically the first treatment for skin cancer and is often curative for early stage patients. For patients with advanced skin cancer, more extensive procedures (such as removal of nearby lymph nodes) may be necessary, but surgery can still significantly improve survival odds.
 
City of Hope’s surgeons specialize in minimally invasive procedures to treat skin cancers. By using making smaller cuts and fewer incisions, patients experience less pain, recover faster, have shorter hospital stays and are less likely to have post-surgical complications.
 
City of Hope also offers cryosurgery, which uses liquid nitrogen to freeze and destroy skin cancer cells, and electrodesiccation and curettage, which cuts out the cancerous tissue and uses an electric current to kill remaining cancer cells.
 
The expertise of City of Hope’s surgeons also means that they can minimizing removal of healthy skin tissue, resulting in less scarring. Additionally, our specialized plastic surgery team that can perform reconstructive procedures to restore appearance.
 

Radiation Therapy

For skin cancer, radiation may be to treat any cancer cells that may remain after surgery, or may be used in lieu of surgery if the cancer is located in an area that’s challenging for surgical removal (such as the face).
 
In addition to standard radiation regimens, City of Hope also offers Helical TomoTherapy, an advance technology combining radiation delivery with advanced imaging. This allows the radiation beams to be “sculpted” to the tumor’s size and shape, resulting in more focused radiation on the cancer site while minimizing exposure to adjacent tissues and organs. This can reduce the likelihood and severity of side effects.
 

Drug Therapy

City of Hope uses a wide range of chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs to treat skin cancer. These drugs may be taken orally, intravenously (injected into the bloodstream) or topically (applied on the skin).
 
In addition to standard drug regimens, patients have access to newly developed drugs (or drug combinations) through our clinical trials program.
 
Cancer fighting drugs can also enhance the effectiveness of surgery and can be administered after the procedure to minimize the chance of recurrence.
 
As part of the treatment team, a medical oncologist will evaluate the patient’s cancer, health and other factors, so that the drug therapy regimen can be tailored to the patient throughout the continuum of care.
 

Become a Patient


  If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Clinical Trials and Research

Skin Cancer Clinical Trials and Research

There is extensive collaboration between City of Hope clinicians and researchers to develop and evaluate new cancer therapies designed to improve survival and quality of life outcomes. City of Hope patients have access to a wide variety of clinical trials ranging from new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, novel surgical techniques, new radiation approaches and strategies to minimize side effects and chances of cancer recurrence.
 
If you are interested in participating in a study, please discuss with your primary doctor about open trials and their eligibility criteria.
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Living with Skin Cancer

Living with Skin Cancer

While our primary goal is to cure or control the disease, another top priority is relieving suffering and discomfort for skin cancer patients undergoing treatments.
 
In addition to curative treatments, City of Hope head and neck patients and their caregivers have access to the broad range of services offered by our Department of Supportive Care Medicine . The department’s staff of professionals, including supportive medicine physicians, support groups and clinical social workers, can help patients and loved ones with a variety of care and wellness issues including:
 
  • Managing cancer or treatment effects such as pain, nausea and fatigue
  • Palliative care to reduce discomfort and stress, physical and mental, throughout diagnosis and treatment
  • Adjusting to new dietary and lifestyle habits following treatment
  • Coping and maintaining emotional/social/spiritual well-being
  • Navigating through the health care system
  • Staying healthy and active during/after treatment
  • Healing arts
  • Building caregiving skills
 
The Department of Supportive Care Medicine is based in City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, which integrates all support services in a central location. The Biller Resource Center provides a warm and welcoming space where patients, families and caregivers can access the resources, education and support they need to strengthen and empower themselves, before, during and after treatment.
 
For more information or to contact the Biller Resource Center staff, please call 626-256-4673, ext. 32273 (3CARE).
 
 
This site includes tips, tools and online resources to help cancer patients and their families with issues that arise during cancer treatment.

Additional Resources
 
 
 
If you have been diagnosed with a skin cancer or are looking for a second opinion consultation about your treatment, find out more about becoming a patient by calling 800-826-HOPE or filling out the Request a New Patient Appointment Online form.

Support This Program

Support this program

It takes the help of a lot of caring people to make hope a reality for our patients.  City of Hope was founded by individuals’ philanthropic efforts 100 years ago. Their efforts - and those of our supporters today - have built the foundation for the care we provide and the research we conduct. It enables City of Hope to strive for new breakthroughs and better therapies, ultimately helping more people enjoy longer, better lives.

For more information on supporting this specific program, please contact our Philanthropy Department at 800-667-5310 or philanthropy@coh.org. Or, to make a gift that supports all the research at City of Hope, donate online now.

 
We thank you for your support.
 
 
 
Quick Links
With Cancer, Expertise Matters

 
Cancer patients need to have confidence in their treatment plans by exploring all possible options. Often that means they should get a second opinion. For these four patients, getting a second opinion from experts at City of Hope was life-saving.
Skin Cancer Self-Exam
Knowing the “ABCDEs” of skin cancer diagnosis can save your life.

Download and share our ABCDE Guide.

 
 
Faces of Cancer

Meet City of Hope patients and their families.
 
 
Ask the Experts - Skin Cancer


NEWS & UPDATES
  • Henry Ford said it well: “Working together is success.” For biomedical researchers, this is especially true. The challenges they face often require expertise from multiple fields to find answers and solutions. Scientists seeking cures for type 1 diabetes in particular must overcome biological, medical and techn...
  • Superheroes are making plenty of headlines as the summer blockbuster season opens. At City of Hope, a 9-year-old girl wept as she hugged her own superhero: someone who had the superpower of healing her cancer. He didn’t wear flashy armor or a cape, but rather a plaid shirt. He doesn’t have a secret ...
  • Known for his ability to bring together, and lead, effective research teams, world-renowned translational research scientist and physician Larry W. Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., has joined City of Hope in a key leadership role within the institution’s new Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Instit...
  • To detect melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, at its earliest, most treatable stage, conduct a head-to-toe skin self-examination once a month to check for suspicious moles.   Unusual, or atypical, moles can ultimately develop into skin cancer. Here is the ABCDE guide to potentially cancerous mol...
  • “Superheroes,” “grateful” and “lifesavers”: All are words patients have used to describe their bone marrow donors. For donors, “a great feeling” and “the right thing to do” seems to sum up their view of donating the stem cells used to save someone’s life. Bone marrow transplants of...
  • Updated: May 1, 2015 More than a decade after joining the bone marrow registry during a blood drive at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Phil Ratcliff received a call that he was a match for a leukemia patient. By then, he’d left his military career to start his own financial business, married [...
  • Updated: May 1. For Lars Nijland, the reason to become a member of a bone marrow registry was simple. “I always thought there would be no easier way to save somebody’s life,” said the 24-year-old student at Germany’s University of Goettingen, who signed up for the registry during a drive on his campus. Ni...
  • Updated: May 1 No parent ever wants to see their child hurting or sick in any way. Joanne Cooper’s daughter Amanda wasn’t sick, though. She seemed healthy. Vibrant. A straight-A student whose only major health ailment had been bouts of stress-related nausea. Then a blood test revealed that Amanda – now 9 years ...
  • Noe Chavez became animated when he recalled the story: “We were running a health event, screening folks for diabetes,” said the enthusiastic City of Hope population health researcher, “and this man comes over and starts talking to us about the trouble he’s having with his eyes. I spoke with him, listened ...
  • When Keith McKinny, 29, was first diagnosed with lymphoma and leukemia in 2010, the first person he thought of was former boyfriend Jason Mullins. The two hadn’t been in contact with each other for some time, but McKinny couldn’t think of anyone else with whom he wanted to be during that difficult period....
  • Updated: May 1 Yesenia Portillo’s search for a bone marrow donor started close to home. Her brother, sister and seven cousins all underwent testing, but none of them were a close enough match to donate the bone marrow stem cells she desperately needed for her transplant. Yesenia, now almost 16, had always been ...
  • Some of City of Hope’s most high-impact achievements have arisen from City of Hope’s globally recognized bone marrow transplant (BMT) program. The annual Karl G. Blume – Gerhard Schmidt Memorial Lecture in Transplantation Biology & Medicine — commemorating two of the most influential and revered...
  • Guido Marcucci, M.D., wants to put himself out of business. A respected clinician and esteemed basic and translational scientist, Marcucci joins City of Hope as co-director of the Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research within the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute. In this positi...
  • To say that myelofibrosis patients need more treatment options would be an understatement. The severely low platelet counts, known as thrombocytopenia, that are one of the hallmark symptoms of the disease can lead to chronic fatigue and weakness that not only damage quality of life but, ultimately, shorten life...
  • Patients with metastatic colorectal cancer often stop responding to the primary drugs used against the disease, leaving them with few options and little hope. Determined to increase those options, doctors and researchers at City of Hope are conducting two clinical trials that could lead to new treatments for pe...