Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. It is also very treatable, especially if found early. The risk of skin cancer is greater for some people and in some parts of the world. It is easy to determine your level of risk and to minimize them. There are three types of skin cancer that you need to be especially aware of. They are basal cell carcinoma, Squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma. The most important and preventable cause of skin cancer is sun exposure, which can be significant, even during the winter months.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is most common of all skin cancers. There are 3 common types of Basal Cell Cancer, superficial, nodular and morphea form. Basal cell cancer effects close to one million people every year. Basal cell carcinoma may appear as an open sore, a reddish patch, a pink growth, a shiny bump or a scar like area. You should be suspicious of skin cancer if there are any changes in your skin that lasts longer than three weeks and does not seem to go away or heal.
If caught early the cure rate for basal cell cancer is greater than 95 percent. If left untreated it can grow very large and invade locally. Very rarely, the basal squamous variety can spread to other sites and can be deadly. It looks like a pearly growth, sometimes with an area of redness in the center. It does not heal on its own and usually grows slowly. It occurs mostly on sun exposed parts of the body, and is most common in people 30-40 years old or older who have had lots of sun exposure over the years. Sunburns and blistering can predispose you to this form of cancer.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. It starts in the pre-cancerous state and it may simply appear as a flaky red patch. These cells can grow to frank cancer if left untreated. Finally rarely these cancer cells can spread to distant tissues and organs.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma usually occurs after years of sun exposure, and mostly on sun-exposed parts of the body. Over 500,000 cases were diagnosed and treated in the United States last year, representing 19 percent of all skin cancers. Like basal cell carcinoma, this disease is 95 percent curable if treated in its early stages. Squamous cell carcinoma has a slightly higher risk of spread, when compared to basal cell cancer, and can be lethal if left untreated. It looks like a crusty, scaly patch with a hard, callousy surface.
Malignant Melanoma is the third most common and most deadly form of skin cancer. There are 3 forms, nodular, ulcerative and superficial or lentigo melanoma. The ABCD of skin cancer.
A. One of the signs of melanoma includes pigmented lesions with Asymmetry.
B. Uneven Borders
C. Varying shades of Color and even loss of color and pigmentation
D. Diameter, the size is usually larger than a pencil eraser
Malignant Melanoma is the most deadly, but fortunately, least common form of skin cancer. It accounts for about 4 percent of all skin cancers. This seems to be due mostly to genetic factors and multiple sunburns, especially before the age of 18. Melanoma looks like a brown to brownish black spot that can be flat or raised. It usually has uneven borders and more than one color. It can sometimes even bleed. Melanoma occurs more commonly on sun-exposed parts of the body, but can occur anywhere including the scalp, palms or soles, and even on the genitals.
Melanoma most commonly occurs in a mole that is already present, but can also occur on previously normal-appearing skin. This kind of skin cancer does spread internally and can be deadly if not caught early.
One person dies in the United States every hour from malignant melanoma. It is important to get to know all your existing moles and have any new or changing moles brought to the attention of your doctor as soon as possible. The changes don't necessarily mean skin cancer, but frequent examination is always a good idea. If it needs to be observed then get it removed. OUT OF SIGHT MEANS OUT OF MIND AND CANCER IS HARD TO OCCUR IN AN AREA THAT HAS ALREADY BEEN EXCISED.
Prevention and early detection of skin cancer are the keys to maximizing the best chances for curative treatment.
You can use the following criteria to rate your propensity to develop skin cancer. It is based on a grading system that takes into account your hair, eye, and skin color and your propensity to produce pigment and to tan. If you have red and green eyes you have the highest propensity for skin cancer. Blue eyes and blond hair is better but nor great. Dark hair and dark brown or black eyes have the least tendency to form skin cancer. If you burn and blister with sun exposure you are at the highest risk for forming skin cancer. Finally if there is a history of skin cancer in the family your risk increases. Finally living in an area that predisposes you to heavy sun exposure especially during childhood increases yor risk.
Skin Cancer Protection
A few simple measures can help you to minimize your risk of skin cancer: Avoid the sun during its hottest times. The sun burning rays (UVB) are strongest between the hours of 10am and 3pm. Try to minimize you time outdoors during these hours.
- Geographic factors also affect the amount of damage that your skin gets by exposure. The closer you live to the equator, the stronger the sun's rays. The sun is also stronger at higher altitudes.
- A tan is the body's defense against the sun. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A HEALTHY TAN. A tan is always a sign of sun damage. Tanning booths are not safe. Studies have shown an increase in the risk of skin cancer in young people who use tanning booths.
- Sunscreens must be applied thickly and reapplied every two hours. Water, wind, and sweat all cause sunscreen to be less effective. Use sunscreens that have an SPF of 15 or higher and that also block UVA.
Snow, sand and water reflect the sun's rays and greatly increase their intensity. Clouds do not completely block UVB so you can get sunburn on a cloudy day.
- Additional clothing can help in protecting you from the sun. A broad brimmed hat protects the ears and face. There are also companies that make special clothing with sun protection factors built into them.
- Every month, spend just fifteen minutes to give yourself a thorough once-over to check for skin cancer. This adds up to only three hours a year. If you see any changes in your moles or new moles, or non-healing growths, bring them to the attention of your DOCTOR as soon as possible. This greatly increases you chances of finding any problems at an early stage when cure is the rule.
- For skiers and those who travel for the sun, take a few extra minutes to protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun.
- Everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer and should receive an annual skin cancer screening. People with fair skin, blond or red hair and blue, green or gray eyes are at high risk, as well as people who have worked or spent a lot of leisure time outdoors.
Skin Cancer Surgery
Dr. Norman Bakshandeh is an expert in the treatment of pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions. All biopsies and surgeries are performed in the comfort of our patient treatment rooms.
MOHS SURGERY or a procedure that takes far less time but is equally as effective in curing the cancer is performed as an outpatient office procedure. Permanent sections are taken to confirm the surgical margins and the excision and reconstruction are performed in one setting in a very judicious period of time taking into account the reconstruction using the subunit priciples.
Zinc and Titanium dioxide are the most effective physical sunscreens.
During the prolonged hours of sun exposure cover up, wear a hat and reapply your sunscreen every hour.
Remember that tanning booths also damage your skin. They accelerate aging cause pigmentation changes and increase your chance of developing skin cancer. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A HEALTHY TAN. A TAN IS THE SIGN OF SUN EXPOSURE AND YOUR BODY IS TRYING TO PROTECT ITSELF FROM THE SUNS DAMAGING RAYS. WEAR SUNSREEN, HATS AND SUNSHIRTS AND SWIMMING SHIRTS AND AVOID THE SUN DURING ITS HOTTEST TIMES.