Skin Cancer

UC San Diego Health oncologists and dermatologists offer comprehensive care for melanoma and other skin cancers.

Nationally Ranked Cancer Care

UC San Diego Health is repeatedly ranked among the nation's best in cancer care by U.S. News & World Report. We are also the only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Diego County. This is the highest possible rating for a U.S. cancer center, and it means you’ll receive the best possible care and support. Studies show patient outcomes are better at NCI-designated cancer centers.

Types of Skin Cancer

More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. More than 95% of these are nonmelanoma skin cancer, associated with overexposure to the sun. Most nonmelanoma skin cancers and pre-cancers are treated by dermatologists. More advanced cancer or melanoma may require care from a multidisciplinary team that includes oncologists.

  • Basal cell carcinoma: It accounts for 75% of all nonmelanoma skin cancer and very rarely spreads (metastasizes).
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: It accounts for about 20% of all nonmelanoma skin cancer. It usually grows slowly, often develops in injured or diseased skin and may spread.
  • Melanoma: This cancer starts in the pigment-producing skin cells (melanocytes). These cells may become abnormal, grow uncontrollably and aggressively invade surrounding tissues. 

Diagnosing Skin Cancer

The first step in diagnosing skin cancer is a thorough evaluation by your physician. You’ll also be asked to answer questions about your past sun exposure, history of moles and other skin growths, and any family history of melanoma or other cancer.

While melanoma can sometimes be recognized solely by appearance, it’s typically diagnosed with a biopsy. Your doctor may also recommend other diagnostic tests to fully evaluate your condition, including:

Comprehensive, Personalized Treatments for Skin Cancer

Feel confident you’ll receive a personalized, comprehensive care plan that fits your needs and supports you and your family throughout your journey. Your treatment may include one or a combination of the following approaches.


Surgery may be recommended to remove cancerous tissue. If your skin cancer is deep or if it has spread to the lymph nodes, your treatment may include immune stimulation or radiation therapy.

Mohs Micrographic Surgery

Certain types of skin cancer are removed through Mohs micrographic surgery.


This form of immunotherapy is given intravenously five days per week for four weeks. Interferon is FDA approved for the treatment of patients at significant risk for disease recurrence. The success of this treatment depends on proper patient education and the experience of the medical center, both hallmarks of Moores Cancer Center.

Interleukin 2 (IL 2)

This is a vaccine-like drug given by injection at the lesion site that stimulates the body’s own immune system to fight the recurrence of melanoma. The use of IL 2 also requires a highly trained staff and special protocols to deliver it safely and effectively.

Skin Cancer Doctors & Surgeons

At UC San Diego Health, your cancer care is led by a multidisciplinary team of doctors who specialize in your type of cancer. Highly specialized multidisciplinary care is a hallmark of top-tier academic medical centers such as UC San Diego Health. For patients like you, it means you receive the highest level of care. Find a skin cancer specialist.

Second Opinion Services

When you have a diagnosis as serious as cancer, you deserve a second opinion on your treatment options.

How to Get a Second Opinion

Clinical Trials

Advancing Cancer Care and Prevention

UC San Diego Health physicians are actively researching ways to improve cancer care. By joining a clinical trial, you may receive a new cancer treatment before it is available to the public. If your cancer has not responded to standard therapies, talk to your doctor about whether a clinical trial could be right for you.

Patient & Family Support Services

At UC San Diego Health, your care goes beyond treating disease. It also includes supporting you and your loved ones emotionally throughout your cancer journey. Most of our support services are free.

Browse All Support Services


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