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skin cancer

We all love spending time outdoors and in the sunshine. Too much time in the sun (especially if you’re not wearing sunscreen) could put you at risk for developing skin cancer. Caught early, most types of skin cancer can be treated and cured. There are three types of skin cancer, each with different looks.

The different types of skin cancer are:

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It can appear as a shiny translucent or pearly nodule, a sore that continuously heals and then re-opens, a pink slightly elevated growth, reddish irritated patches of skin, or a waxy scar. Most BCCs appear on skin with a history of exposure to the sun, such as the face, ears, scalp, and upper trunk. These tumors tend to grow slowly and can take years to reach ½ inch in size. While these tumors very rarely metastasize (cancer spreads to other parts of the body), dermatologists encourage early diagnosis and treatment to prevent extensive damage to surrounding tissue.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer. It most often appears as a crusted or scaly area of skin with a red inflamed base that resembles a growing tumor, non-healing ulcer, or crusted-over patch of skin. While most commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the body, it can develop anywhere, including the inside of the mouth and the genitalia. SCC may arise from actinic keratoses, which are dry, scaly lesions that may be skin-colored, reddish-brown or yellowish-black. SCC requires early treatment to prevent metastasis (spreading).

Melanoma is the least common type of skin, but has been coined “the most lethal form of skin cancer” because it can rapidly spread to the lymph system and internal organs. In the United States alone, approximately one person dies from melanoma every hour. Older Caucasian men have the highest mortality rate. Dermatologists believe this is due to the fact that they are less likely to heed the early warning signs. With early detection and proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is about 95%. Once its spreads, the prognosis is poor. Melanoma most often develops in a pre-existing mole or looks like a new mole, which is why it is important for people to know what their moles look like and be able to detect changes to existing moles and spot new moles.

Protection and Early Detection
Sun protection can significantly decrease a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. Sun protection practices include staying out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the rays are strongest, applying a broad-spectrum (offers UVA and UVB protection) sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher year-round to all exposed skin, and wearing a protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when outdoors.

Since skin cancer is so prevalent today, dermatologists also recommend that everyone learn how to recognize the signs of skin cancer, use this knowledge to perform regular examinations of their skin, and see a dermatologist annually (more frequently if at high risk) for an exam. Skin cancer is highly curable with early detection and proper treatment.

ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection
: Look for danger signs in pigmented lesions of the skin. Consult your dermatologist immediately if any of your moles or pigmented spots exhibit:
One half is unlike the other half.
An irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined border.
Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown, or black; is sometimes white, red, or blue.
Melanomas usually are greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color