Sun & Skin News

Ask The Expert: Can Skin Cancer Come Back?

By Skin Cancer Foundation • April 9, 2024

Q: I recently had a skin cancer removed, and I’m worried about recurrence. I know I’m now at higher risk for more skin cancers, but can that same cancer come back even after it’s been treated?

A: The question of whether skin cancer can come back is a very good one it’s a very important one. The answer to that question really depends on what kind of skin cancer we’re dealing with and the method used to treat that cancer.

The risk of melanoma coming back really depends on how late this cancer is caught. The deeper the melanoma, the more chance of it spreading and coming back locally and that’s why early detection leads to a cure.

With regard to the more common skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, it depends on whether there were previous treatments performed on that cancer.

Mohs surgery has the highest cure rate, which really reaches 99 percent. Even with Mohs surgery, unfortunately skin cancer can come back. There’s no method that has 100 percent cure rate. What’s really important is to have a lifelong evaluation of those areas where the skin cancers have been treated, to make sure there’s no recurrence.

It’s important to choose the right method of treatment so that we really reduce the chance of skin cancer coming back. But ultimately a skin cancer that hasn’t been treated early enough, and skin cancers that have certain features that make them aggressive have a higher risk of coming back. Some of those features may be a large skin cancer, a skin cancer that is what we call ulcerated, which means it has a wound on the surface, skin cancers that have very poorly differentiated cells, cells that basically define the cancer as being more aggressive. So again the keys are early detection as well as lifelong skin exams.



About the Expert:

Ariel Ostad, MD, is a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon who practices in New York City. He is an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine.

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