Treatment is dependent on type of cancer, location of the cancer, age of the patient, and if the cancer is primary or recurrence. One should look at the specific type of skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma,squamous cell carcinoma, or melanoma) of concern in order to determine the correct treatment required. An example would be a small basal cell cancer on the cheek of a young man, where the treatment with the best cure rate (Mohs surgery) might be indicated. In the case of an elderly frail man with multiple complicating medical problems, a difficult to excise basal cell cancer of the nose might warrant radiation therapy (slightly lower cure rate) or no treatment at all. Topical chemotherapy might be indicated for large superficial basal cell carcinoma for good cosmetic outcome, whereas it might be inadequate for invasive nodular basal cell carcinoma or invasive squamous cell carcinoma.
For low-risk disease, radiation therapy, topical chemotherapy (imiquimod or 5-fluorouracil) and cryotherapy (freezing the cancer off) can provide adequate control of the disease; both, however, may have lower overall cure rates than certain type of surgery. Other modalities of treatment such as photodynamic therapy, topical chemotherapy, electrodessication and curettage can be found in the discussions of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Mohs' micrographic surgery (mohs surgery) is a technique used to remove the cancer with the least amount of surrounding tissue and the edges are checked immediately to see if tumor is found. This provides the opportunity to remove the least amount of tissue and provide the best cosmetically favorable results. This is especially important for areas where excess skin is limited, such as the face. Cure rates are equivalent to wide excision. Special training is required to perform this technique.
In the case of disease that has spread (metastasized), further surgical procedures or chemotherapy may be required.
Scientists have recently been conducting experiments on what they have termed immune- priming. This therapy is still in its infancy but has been shown to effectively attack foreign threats like viruses and also latch onto and attack skin cancers. More recently researchers have focused their efforts on strengthening the body's own naturally produced helper T cells that identify and lock onto cancer cells and help guide the killer cells to the cancer. Researchers infused patients with roughly 5 billion of the helper T cells without any harsh drugs or chemotherapy. This type of treatment if shown to be effective has no side effects and could change the way cancer patients are treated.
A cream used to treat pre-cancerous skin lesions also reverses signs of aging, a study released in April 2009 indicated.