How common is skin cancer?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 1 Million Americans develop some type of Skin Cancer every year. It is the most common form of cancer, but if detected early, it is also the most curable form of cancer. Click below to learn about the different types of skin cancer
BLOCK THE SUN, NOT THE FUN!
You don’t have to give up your outdoor activities or avoid the sun completely to limit your exposure to UV. Following these precautions will help you to be safe while you have fun in the sun.
- Cover up: Choose shirts and pants to protect as much skin as possible.
- Use sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Look for sunscreens containing Parasol or Zinc Oxide.
- Wear a hat: Choose a hat that shades the face, neck, and ears.
- Wear sunglasses. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block UV rays.
- Limit sun exposure. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the UV rays are strongest.
DON’T FORGET THE KIDS
It’s important to shield your children’s skin from the damaging effects of the sun. No matter what they’re doing, or what time of year it is, if they’re outside, they need to be protected. Build safe sun habits into your family’s daily routine. Lead by example – children will respond better when they see you protecting your skin.
Fact: 80% of Sun Damage to the skin occurs by age 18.
The Sun Isn’t Only At The Beach!
Most people think to protect themselves from harmful sun exposure when they are at the beach, but it is just as important to protect yourself during any other outdoor activity. Whether you enjoy…
IF YOU CAN SPOT IT, YOU CAN STOP IT: CHECK YOUR SPOTS!
- Check your skin for changes in pigmentation and moles that the color or diameter may have changed over time.
- Check areas that have had more exposure to sunlight, especially around ears, lips, shoulders and nose.
- Check your skin for crusty, scaly patches with hard calloused surfaces.
- Check for sores that won’t heal or look translucent and have gradually grown.
Coupled with a yearly skin exam by a doctor, self-examination of your skin once a month is the best way to detect the early warning signs of skin cancer. Look for a new growth or any skin change.
How to Examine Your Skin
Get familiar with your skin and your own pattern of moles, freckles, blemishes, and birthmarks. Check your skin monthly, and be alert to changes in the number, size, shape, or color of spots on your skin or sores that do not heal.
The best time to do this simple exam is after a bath or shower. Use a full-length and a hand mirror so you can check your skin from head to toe, noting anything new.
Face the mirror
- Check your face, ears, neck, chest, and belly.
- Check both sides of your arms and the tops and palms of your hands.
- Check the front of your thighs, shins, tops of your feet, and in between your toes.
- Now look at the bottom of your feet, your calves, and the backs of your thighs – first one leg, then the other. (You will need a hand mirror for the backs of your thighs.)
- Use the hand mirror to check the buttocks, lower back, upper back, and the back of the neck. (It may be helpful to look at your back in a wall mirror by using a hand mirror.)
If you do the exam regularly, you will know what is normal for you and can feel confident. Remember the warning signs and check with your health care professional or dermatologist if you find something.\
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, affecting 800,000 Americans each year. In fact, it is the most common of all cancers. One out of every three new cancers is a skin cancer, and the vast majority are basal cell carcinomas, often referred to by the abbreviation, BCC. These cancers arise in the basal cells, which are at the bottom of the epidermis (outer skin layer). Until recently, those most often affected were older people, particularly men who had worked outdoors. Although the number of new cases has increased sharply each year in the last few decades, the average age of onset of the disease has steadily decreased. More women are getting BCCs than in the past; nonetheless, men still outnumber them greatly.
Chronic exposure to sunlight is the cause of almost all basal cell carcinomas, which occur most frequently on exposed parts of the body. the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back.
Anyone with a history of frequent sun exposure can develop basal cell carcinoma. But people who have fair skin, light hair, and blue, green, or gray eyes are at highest risk. Those whose occupations require long hours outdoors or who spend extensive leisure time in the sun are in particular jeopardy.
The five most typical characteristics of basal cell carcinoma are shown below. Frequently, two or more features are present in one tumor. In addition, basal cell carcinoma sometimes resembles non-cancerous skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema. Only a trained dermatologist can decide for sure.
An Open Sore
An Open Sore that bleeds, oozes, or crusts and remains open for three or more weeks. A persistent, non-healing sore is a very common sign of an early basal cell carcinoma.
A Reddish Patch
A Reddish Patch or irritated area, frequently occurring on the chest, shoulders, arms, or legs. Sometimes the patch crusts. It may also itch or hurt. At other times, it persists with no noticeable discomfort.
A Shiny Bump
A Shiny Bump or nodule, that is pearly or translucent and is often pink, red, or white. The bump can also be tan, black, or brown, especially in dark-haired people, and can be confused with a mole.
A Pink Growth
A Pink Growth with a slightly elevated rolled border and a crusted indentation in the center. As the growth slowly enlarges, tiny blood vessels may develop on the surface.
A Scar-like Area
A Scar-like Area, which is, white, yellow or waxy, and often has poorly defined borders. The skin itself appears shiny and taut. Although a less frequent sign, it can indicate the presence of an aggressive tumor.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma, afflicts more than 200,000 Americans each year. It arises from the epidermis and resembles the squamous cells that comprise most of the upper layers of skin. Squamous cell cancers may occur on all areas of the body including the mucous membranes, but are most common in areas exposed to the sun.
Although squamous cell carcinomas usually remain confined to the epidermis for some time, they eventually penetrate the underlying tissues if not treated. In a small percentage of cases, they spread (metastasize) to distant tissues and organs. When this happens, they can be fatal. Squamous cell carcinomas that metastasize most often arise on sites of chronic inflammatory skin conditions or on the
Chronic exposure to sunlight causes most cases of squamous cell carcinoma. That is why tumors appear most frequently on sun-exposed parts of the body: the face, neck, bald scalp, hands, shoulders, arms, and back. The rim of the ear and the lower lip are especially vulnerable to the development of these cancers.
Anyone with a substantial history of sun exposure can develop squamous cell carcinoma. But people who have fair skin, light hair, and blue, green, or gray eyes are at highest risk. Those whose occupations require long hours outdoors or who spend extensive leisure time in the sun are in particular jeopardy. Dark-skinned individuals of African descent are far less likely than fair-skinned individuals to develop skin cancer. More than two thirds of the skin cancers that they do develop, however, are squamous cell carcinomas, usually arising on the sites of preexisting inflammatory skin conditions or burn injuries.
- A wart-like growth that crusts and occasionally bleeds.
- A persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that sometimes crusts or bleeds.
- An open sore that bleeds and crusts and persists for weeks.
- An elevated growth with a central depression that occasionally bleeds. A growth of this type may rapidly increase in size.
Melanoma is one of the most serious forms of skin cancer. Even so, if diagnosed and removed while it is still thin and limited to the outermost skin layer, it is almost 100% curable. Once the cancer advances and metastasizes (spreads) to other parts of the body, it is hard to treat and can be deadly. During the past 10 years the number of cases of melanoma has increased more rapidly than that of any other cancer. Over 96,000 new cases are reported to the American Cancer Society each year. At the skin clinic we diagnose and treat hundreds of melanomas per year. We provide comprehensive care for our melanoma patients from diagnosis, to excision and sentinel lymph node biopsy when appropriate.
- People with lots of moles, and those who have some large moles, have an increased risk for melanoma.
- People with fair skin, freckling, light hair or blue eyes have a higher risk of melanoma. But anyone can get melanoma.
- Around 10% of people with melanoma have a close relative (mother father, brother, sister, child) with the disease. A strong family history of breast and ovarian cancer could mean that certain gene changes (mutations) are present. Men with this gene change have a higher risk of melanoma.
Melanoma is a malignant tumor that originates in melanocytes, the cells which produce the pigment melanin that colors our skin, hair, and eyes and is heavily concentrated in most moles. The majority of melanomas, therefore, are black or brown. However, melanomas occasionally stop producing pigment. When that happens, the melanomas may no longer be dark, but are skin-colored, pink, red, or purple.
Almost everyone has moles. The vast majority of moles are perfectly harmless. A change in a mole’s appearance is a sign that you should see your doctor. Here’s the simple ABCD rule to help you remember the important signs of melanoma and other skin cancers:
- A is for ASYMMETRY: One-half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- B is for BORDER: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for COLOR:The color is not the same all over, but may have differing shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white, or blue.
- D is for DIAMETER: The area is larger than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch — the size of a pencil eraser) or is growing larger.
Other important signs of melanoma include changes in size, shape, or color of a mole or the appearance of a new spot. Some melanomas do not fit the ABCD rule described above, so it is particularly important for you to be aware of changes in skin lesions or a new skin lesion.
Other warning signs are:
- A sore that does not heal
- A new growth
- Spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border
- Change in sensation – itchiness, tenderness, or pain
- Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a bump or nodule