Leon Chen, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon who earned his Medical Doctorate from the University of Texas McGovern Medical School at Houston. He completed his dermatology residency training at the MD Anderson Cancer Center/University of Texas McGovern Medical School combined program and his Micrographic Surgery and Dermatologic Oncology (Mohs) fellowship at MD Anderson Cancer Center. He was the winner of the Review Article Incentive Program awarded by the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) during his time as a dermatology resident. His fellowship training focused on Mohs micrographic surgery, advanced reconstruction, and clinical research in cutaneous oncology. He was the sub-investigator of various clinical trials that evaluated the use of a hedgehog pathway inhibitor and immunotherapy for advanced nonmelanoma skin cancer. Dr. Chen’s deep passion for skin cancer has led him to author more than 30 peer-reviewed research manuscripts and numerous book chapters. His research has been presented at national and international dermatology meetings. He is also the editor of the textbook Basal Cell Carcinoma: Advances in Treatment and Research.
Dr. Chen is certified by the American Board of Dermatology and a Fellow of the American College of Mohs Surgery. He is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, the American College of Mohs Surgery, the American Medical Association, and the Texas Medical Association.
In his free time, Dr. Chen enjoys spending time with his wife, Patty, and two young boys, Levi and Luke. He is also an avid sports fan who follows the Rockets, the Texans, the Astros as well as sports teams from his alma mater Texas Longhorns.
Actinic Keratosis, also known as solar keratosis, is a scaly or crusty lesion on the skin that develops slowly and indicates the presence of sun damage. It is most commonly found on parts of the body frequently exposed to the sun including the bald scalp, face, ears, lips, backs of the hands or forearms, neck, and shoulders.
Actinic keratoses are considered precancerous and can develop into a type of skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. In fact, some 40 to 60 percent of squamous cell skin cancers begin as untreated actinic keratoses.
Because of this, your doctor should be diligent in diagnosing, treating and monitoring actinic keratosis.
Annual Skin Examinations are yearly scheduled skin exams with a dermatologist. Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.? In fact, it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Sun damage to the skin is cumulative over a person’s lifetime, so the average risk of skin cancer also increases as our life expectancy gets longer.
Just as you schedule your annual physical or trip to the dentist, it is important to conduct a self-examination of your skin each month and schedule a professional annual skin examination once a year. Skin cancer is a treatable condition, but early detection is key.
Basal Cell Carcinoma, also known as basalioma or basal cell cancer, is the most common type of skin cancer and carries the least amount of risk, though it still requires attention. If caught and treated early, basal cell carcinomas are not likely to be life-threatening, but they do have the potential to cause disfigurement of the skin tissue.
Almost one million new cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S., and up to 30% of Caucasians may develop basal cell carcinomas in their lifetime.
Skin cancer is considered low risk when the affected cells remain clustered in a single group. Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are rarely life-threatening. Though it is unlikely to spread to other parts of your body, if left untreated, basal cell carcinoma can move into nearby bone or other tissue.
Basal cell carcinoma typically begins as a small, shiny bump on the face, although it can occur on any part of the body.
Melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers, only accounts for about 4 percent of all skin cancer cases, but causes about 79 percent of skin cancer deaths.
Melanoma is a cancer of the skin that begins in the melanocytes, which are the cells that produce the pigment melanin. It is the leading cause of cancer death in women 25 to 30 years old and the second leading cause of cancer death in women 30 to 35 years old.
In some cases, melanoma occurs in melanocytes throughout the body, even if those parts have never been exposed to the sun.
Mohs surgery offers the highest cure rates for all non-melanoma skin cancers. For certain cases of the most common types of skin cancer — squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma — the cure rate can be as high as 99 percent.
Mohs surgery is a highly specialized surgical technique used to treat non-melanoma skin cancers in which the surgeon removes all of the visible cancer, plus a small margin of the surrounding healthy tissue and examines it to ensure that all cancer cells have been removed at the time of surgery.
During Mohs micrographic surgery — named after Dr. Frederic Mohs, who first performed it in the 1930s — cancer is removed from the skin layer by layer until all cancerous cells have been removed. This type of surgery is most commonly used for cancers that have a high risk of re-occurrence. This technique allows for complete removal of the skin cancer while minimizing the removal of surrounding healthy skin.
A rare and aggressive form of skin cancer, sebaceous carcinoma is sometimes referred to as sebaceous gland carcinoma, sebaceous gland adenocarcinoma or meibomian gland carcinoma.
Sebaceous carcinoma can develop in any sebaceous glands, which lubricate the skin, but it most often begins on or around the eyelids. If it is found and treated early, treatment is often successful. However, if sebaceous carcinoma spreads, it can be deadly.
Because sebaceous carcinoma can appear to be a benign growth such as a stye, diagnosis is often delayed, which increases the risk of death. If you notice a growth on your eyelid, it’s important to make an appointment with your dermatologist. The sooner sebaceous carcinoma is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed each year.
Skin cancer is the result of uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells that takes place when skin cells suffer DNA damage and then mutate, causing them to multiply rapidly and form malignant (cancerous) tumors. Most skin cancers develop on the visible outer layer of the skin (the epidermis), particularly on sun-exposed areas such as the face, head, hands, arms and legs. They are usually easy to detect with a skin examination, which increases the chances of early diagnosis.
There are different types of skin cancer, each named for the type of skin cell from which they originate. The most common type of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Almost one million new cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the U.S. Most skin cancers fall into one of three categories:
There are often warning signs that cancer is developing. The most common are pre-cancerous lesions called actinic keratoses that often develop on sun-exposed areas. These tumors replace normal surrounding tissue and generally do not spread to other areas.
Skin cancer is considered low risk when the affected cells remain clustered in a single group. Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are rarely life-threatening.
Skin cancer is considered a high risk when cells have invaded surrounding tissues. The third most common skin cancer, malignant melanoma, can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early.
If skin cancer is detected before it has spread to surrounding tissues, the chances of a complete recovery and cure are excellent. High-risk forms of cancer like melanoma require more aggressive treatments.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a common form of skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells that make up the outer layer of the skin. Although it is usually not life-threatening, it can be aggressive in some cases.
If left untreated, squamous cell carcinoma can grow large or spread to other parts of your body, causing serious complications.
Cysts are pockets of tissue (sacs) that may become filled with pus, fluids, skin cells, and even air.
They are fairly common on the skin and can appear anywhere on the body. Cysts may feel like a pea under the surface of the skin, but without removal, they can grow significantly larger over time. In most cases, cysts are not painful, and they grow slowly. There are different types of cysts as we’ll discuss in the next section, and the vast majority of these skin growths are benign (not cancerous). Not all cysts will require treatment, but it is vitally important to have any lump under the skin evaluated and diagnosed by a board-certified dermatologist because some soft tissue malignancies (growths that are cancerous) can present like a cyst. Before recommending removal or other cyst treatments, your dermatologist will examine the growth to determine whether it is likely to cause you pain, become infected, or otherwise lead to skin health issues.
A lipoma is a common, non-cancerous, soft tissue growth just below the skin made up of fat cells. Though most lipomas are not a cause for concern, if the growth becomes too large, it may become painful.
Keloids are raised, red scars created by excessive healing of skin wounds, such as burns, cuts and acne. They are the result of an overproduction of collagen as the skin tries to repair itself. Keloids also can occur after piercings, tattoos or surgery and often times are itchy and painful. They can grow for years and sometimes show up three months or longer after the injury occurred.
We all want healthy, beautiful skin. But scars, a natural part of the healing process, leave a lasting mark and cause some people to struggle with the negative impact on the appearance of their skin and in some cases, limitations in function or other concerns. If you’re unhappy with the appearance, texture, or health of your skin after an injury, surgery, or other damage that leads to scarring, the U.S. Dermatology Partners team can offer treatment to improve the appearance of scarring.