Can Skin Cancer Come Back?

The last thing anyone who successfully recovered from skin cancer wants is to worry about whether it can come back. While countless people live cancer-free lives after treatment, and most skin cancer treatments completely eliminate the tumor, there is a risk of a recurrence or developing a new skin cancer in the future.

Since it’s best to be prepared for every scenario, we’ve put together some information on skin cancer and how you can lower your risk factors.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

The odds of having another basal cell carcinoma (BCC) after your first is about 40%. This means there’s a strong chance that you can develop another skin cancer even after the first has been completely removed.

Therefore, after treatment for BCC is completed, it’s advised that you consult a dermatologist once or twice a year for a comprehensive skin examination.

BCC’s can devlop even if you have been cancer-free for five years or more. This is why most patients who have had BCC treatment are advised to get regular skin exams for the rest of their lives.

Risk for BCC

Risk factors vary for different people, but your dermatologist will be the best person to tell you how often you should get a comprehensive skin examination.

In general, multiple BCC’s are seen most often in people who:

  • Have a weakened immune system.
  • Have fair skin.
  • Are exposed to strong sunlight.
  • Have large tumors that develop around a nerve or have unclear borders.
  • Have already had BCC recurrence.
  • Had BCC recur at a site where they previously had radiation therapy.

Wearing sunscreen, a hat, and clothing that protects your body from the sun is crucial to minimizing the risk of BCC. Tumors are generally less likely to return after Mohs surgery or excision.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Most repeat lesions of Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) occur within two years after diagnosis of the first one, though they can also appear later. Usually, SCC patients are at increased risk of developing another cancerous lesion in the similar area of the body as the first occurrence.

As in the case of BCC, if you’ve previously had SCC, you should regularly see a dermatologist for a comprehensive skin examination. Your dermatologist can advise you on how often these examinations should take place.

Ideally, you’ll need an exam every 3 to 12 months for the first two years after successful treatment. After that, you may be required to go in for an exam once or twice a year. These examinations will need to continue for the rest of your life to ensure you stay healthy.

Risk for SCC

UV light exposure (from the sun or tanning beds) is a primary risk factor for SCC. Sunscreen, a protective hat, and clothing that keeps you safe from strong sunlight are good prevention habits.

SCC is also more likely to recur if the initial cancerous skin lesion or tumor:

  • Develops on the ears, nose, or lips.
  • Grows around a nerve, lymph vessel, or blood vessel.
  • Is thicker and more invasive.

Tumors are less likely to return if SCC treatment includes Mohs surgery and excision.

Melanoma

Melanoma is another type of skin cancer that can appear years after successful treatment. About 7% of patients report a second case of melanoma 15 years after treatment, while almost 11% experience another case up to 25 years after treatment.

Since melanoma can occur at any point on the body and isn’t limited to the initial site of the tumor, comprehensive skin examinations are needed regularly to confirm that you stay cancer-free.

Depending on your risk factors and stage of cancer, your dermatologist may recommend follow-up appointments every three or six months or yearly. These examinations should continue throughout your life.

Risk for Melanoma

The stage of your first case of melanoma is a significant factor that determines your risk for melanoma recurrence.

An early stage melanoma is much less likely to recur.


Do you worry about skin cancer recurrence?

It’s not pleasant to think about skin cancer recurring or developing a new one. However, with good prevention habits and regular visits to your dermatologist, you can minimize your risk of recurrent and new skin cancer and maximize your chances of living a healthy, cancer-free life.

If you want to schedule a comprehensive skin examination or have any questions about skin cancer treatment and recurrence, our dermatology providers can help. Call Schweiger Dermatology Group at (844) DERM-DOC to schedule a consultation today. To find a location near you, check out our location pages.

About Schweiger Dermatology Group

Schweiger Dermatology Group was founded to help make excellent dermatology care accessible throughout the Northeast. In 2010, Dr. Eric Schweiger started the practice with a single location in Midtown Manhattan. When he saw the need for high-quality dermatology care that did not require weeks or months of waiting to see a qualified provider, his vision of a multi-location practice was born.

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