Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all types of cancers.
It is estimated that more than one million Americans develop skin
cancer each year.
Fair-skinned people who sunburn easily are at a particularly
high risk for developing skin cancer. Other less important
factors include repeated medical and industrial x-ray exposure,
scarring from diseases or burns, and family history.
Year-round sun protection is recommended to prevent skin
cancer. Some basics include:
- Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher whenever
you spend time outdoors. Choose a sunscreen with ingredients
that block both UVB and UVA rays.
- Cover up with clothing. Wear long-sleeved shirts, long
pants, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Tightly woven fabrics offer more protection.
- Seek the shade. Remember, the sun's rays are
strongest between 10am and 4pm.
- Never seek a tan. There is no such thing as a
healthy tan. A tan is the skin's response to the sun's
- Stay away from tanning parlors and artificial tanning
devices. The UV radiation emitted by indoor tanning lamps
is many times more intense than natural sunlight.
- Protect your children and teach them sun
safety at an early age. Keep newborns out of the sun and use
sunscreen on babies over the age of six months.
- Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as
they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your
chance of sunburn.
Early detection of skin cancer is the key to cure. Develop
a regular, monthly routine to inspect your body for any skin
changes. If a growth, mole, sore or skin discoloration
appears suddenly, or begins to change, see your primary care
physician or a dermatologist. It is also recommended to have
an annual skin examination by a dermatologist, especially for
adults with significant past sun exposure or a family history of
cancer. If you spot something, don't overlook it or delay
seeking medical assistance.
Warning Signs of Skin Cancer
The warning signs of melanoma (skin cancer)
- Changes in the surface of a mole
- Scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a new
- Spread of pigment from the border of a mole into surrounding
- Change in sensation including itchiness, tenderness or
Know the ABCDEs of Melanoma:
- A stands for Asymmetry; one half of the mole
or pigmented spot is unlike the other half.
- B stands for Border; irregular, scalloped or
poorly defined border.
- C stands for Color; varied from one area to
another; shades of tan and brow, black, or even sometimes white,
red or blue
- D stands for Diameter; while melanomas are
usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when
diagnosed, they can be smaller
- E stands for Evolving; a mole or skin lesion
that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or
If a skin biopsy reveals cancer, there are several dermatologic
surgical treatments that can be performed, including cryosurgery
and laser surgery. In addition, treatments can include
radiation therapy, photodynamic therapy and topical chemotherapy
products may be used.