Skin Cancer Program

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal.

Our skin cancer team at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center focus on every aspect of skin cancer. Our clinicians are also top educators and researchers, and our team will walk you through everything from screening to follow-up care.

Skin cancer includes melanomas and non-melanoma skin cancers. The information on this page refers primarily to our non-melanoma skin cancer program. Find out more about our Melanoma Program.

Three Main Types of Skin Cancer


  • An aggressive, sometimes life-threatening cancer that can spread quickly throughout the body
  • In men, it most often shows up on your upper body, whereas on a women, it’s more common on the lower legs
  • If you have darker skin, it would most likely appear under your fingernails or toenails, on the palms of your hands, or on the soles of your feet

Basal Cell 

  • The most common form of skin cancer
  • Usually occurring in areas of your body exposed to the sun, such as the neck or face
  • It may appear as a pearly or waxy bump or a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion

Squamous Cell 

  • Most often occurs on areas of your body exposed to the sun, such as your face, ears, and hands
  • People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma on areas that aren’t often exposed to sun as often, such as the legs and feet
  • Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface

Other Skin Cancers Treated With Mohs Surgery

  • Adnexal carcinoma
  • Atypical fibroxanthoma (AFX)
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP)
  • Extramammary Paget disease (EMPD)
  • Leiomyosarcoma
  • Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC)
  • Microcystic adnexal carcinoma (MAC).

Treatment Plans May Include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery:

Services That Set Us Apart

  • Mohs surgery: With a cure rate of up to 99 percent depending on the cancer type, Mohs surgery is a precise surgical procedure that progressively removes layers of cancer-containing skin until the area is cancer-free. It spares normal healthy tissue, minimizes scarring, and is most often used for high-risk skin cancers and those located in areas requiring tissue-sparing like the head and neck, hands, feet, and genitalia.
    • We are the only place in the state to offer Mohs surgery for thin, noninvasive melanoma (hasn't spread from its original location), for those cases in need of tissue sparing.
    • Our surgeons are educators and offer fellowship training in this highly specialized and complex procedure.
  • Same-day treatment for some patients: We offer the possibility of treatment for biopsy-proven skin cancer for new patients on their first visit, or existing patients in one visit. This can be planned ahead of time with the help of your referring provider, who will provide your biopsy report, microscope slides, and other clinical notes and photos.
  • Expedited appointments for biopsy of suspected skin cancers at the first visit
  • An outstanding Dermatology Department whose members work closely with our Cancer Center team to put our patients first, coordinating care and giving our patients the best experience possible.
  • New infusion suite designed with patients in mind. Our infusion suite was designed with patient input to create a comfortable, welcoming environment for chemotherapy treatments. Take our virtual tour.

Why Choose Holden for Your Care?

Patients of Holden Cancer Center benefit from a team-based approach that puts each patient at the center. At Holden, experts in specific cancer types—including a genetic counselor certified and specializing in cancer genetic counseling—is part of this team.

Holden patients also benefit from medical advances that take into account an individual’s tumor, genes, environment, and lifestyle to diagnose and treat their specific types of cancer. Known as personalized, or precision medicine, this highly specialized approach is part of Holden’s commitment to providing life-changing medical treatments and care.

"Comprehensive" NCI Designation

Patients treated at NCI-designated cancer centers have better survival outcomes than patients treated at non–NCI-designated cancer centers, according to a recent study published in the journal Cancer. Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa is the only institution in Iowa to hold the prestigious designation of being a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), meaning we are rated in the top 4 percent of the approximately 1,500 cancer centers in the United States.

Our teams have expertise in clinical, laboratory, and population-based research. Our doctors and staff are on top of the newest developments in cancer research, treatment, and diagnosis.

The Power of Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that test out the latest treatments and drugs that are not yet available to the public. These new treatments have the potential to improve your quality of life or increase your chances of survival.

Enrolling soon for melanoma: An exiting new study will be testing an anti-PD-1 drug called Pembrolizumab, which may have the potential to reduce the risk of melanoma recurrence after surgery.

See all of the clinical trials at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Support Our Mission

Our work is made possible in part by the support of donors through charitable giving. Friends of Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center can become partners in the effort to control and ultimately cure cancer. Learn how you can help us make a difference for cancer patients 

Skin Cancer Multidisciplinary Team

We bring experts from different fields of medicine to work together as a team called a multidisciplinary oncology group. Because many patients require more than one form of treatment, our team meets regularly to discuss the best course of treatment and works together to design the best personalized plan for every patient. The team, along with others on your care team, includes radiologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, social workers, pathologists, pharmacists, nurses, and laboratory-based scientists.

Our team of specialists focuses not just on skin cancer, but on your skin cancer. That means our team of experts will design a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs – we don’t believe in “one size fits all.” We will walk you through everything you need to know, including symptoms, treatments, and prognosis.

Physician, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Physician Assistant, Internal Medicine

Genetic Counselor, Internal Medicine