More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer (BCC, SCC, MM) will be diagnosed in the United States this year. The most common warning sign of skin cancer is CHANGE. It is important to understand that the same type of skin cancer can look very different from person to person. It is also the easiest to cure, if diagnosed and treated early.
Should you think there is a possibility that you have skin cancer, we encourage you to have a full-body exam to determine your existing spots, freckles, or moles are all normal, and if they are not normal to have them treated. It is also very important to continually perform head-to-toe skin self-exams and to have regular check-ups as recommended by your skin care specialist.
The earlier skin cancer is diagnosed and treated, the greater the chance of a cure.
The main cause of skin cancer is sunlight (UV) or fake sunlight from tanning beds. These are some recommendations to prevent skin cancer.
- Wear protective clothing, wide-brim hats, and sunglasses.
- Wear sunscreen that protects against UVA & UVB with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
- Avoid sun exposure between 10am-4pm.
- NEVER use tanning beds; literature has shown that using tanning beds increases your risk of Malignant Melanoma by 75%.
Actinic Keratosis (AK) – Pre Skin Cancer
AK is known as a pre-cancer caused from chronic sun exposure and is a scaly or crusty abnormal growth. It most often appears on the bald scalp, face, ears, lips, backs of the hands and forearms, shoulders, neck or any other areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun. Generally you will see a few keratosis; not just one.
When a pre-cancerous growth first appears typically you will generally notice it feels rough to the touch. In more advanced stages, they become red, light or dark tan, pink, or possibly a combination of these colors. There could also be little change in color and could match your skin color.
People with a fair complexion, blond or red hair, and blue, green or grey eyes have a higher incidence of developing AK, when exposed on a continuous basis to the sun or to sun tanning lamps. The skin damage is cumulative. The UV rays at the tanning salon can be even more harmful to the skin than the natural light; so dermatologists warn against this.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCCs often look like a pearly or waxy lump, which could be mistaken for eczema, a flat flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion, open sores, red patches, or pink growths. They could appear to be a sore that bleeds easily, won’t heal, oozes or gets crusty, have visible blood vessels around it or it could be crater-like.
Usually caused by a combination of cumulative sun or tanning bed exposure and therefore Basal Cell Carcinoma generally appears on the parts of the body most often exposed to the sun: on the face (especially the nose), ears, neck, scalp, shoulders, and back. On rare occasions, however, tumors develop on unexposed areas. In a few cases, contributing factors will include exposure to radiation, non-healing open sores, chronic inflammatory skin conditions, and complications of burns, scars, infections, vaccinations, or tattoos.
If not properly protected from on-going sun exposure, Basal Cell Carcinoma has a high risk of recurrence. Regular visits to the dermatologist are important to ensure they do not come back and are treated properly.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCCs are most commonly found in areas of the body that are exposed to UV rays like the back of the hand, scalp, ear, face, neck, arms legs or lips.
People who use tanning beds are 2.5 times more likely to develop SCC than people who don’t use tanning beds. SCC is mainly caused by chronic and cumulative UV (Sun and tanning bed) exposure over a prolonged period of time in ones life. Additionally, it can also occur from precancerous growths and can occur on normal, healthy skin which researchers believe is inherited. The Squamous Cell Carcinoma can arise in burns, scars, ulcers, non-healing sores and areas previously exposed to X-rays or chemicals. Chronic infections, skin inflammation and immune deficiency diseases can play a role in causing SCC.
Often the skin in these areas reveals signs of sun damage, such as wrinkling, changes in pigmentation, and loss of elasticity.
It typically looks like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression, or warts; they may crust or bleed.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It can occur on any skin surface; however in men, it is most commonly found on the head, neck, stomach or back. In women, it is most commonly found on the legs, back or stomach.
Melanomas often resemble moles; some develop from moles. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by intense, UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in people who are genetically predisposed to the disease. Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma.
If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.
The ABCDE’s – Warning Signals of Melanoma
Asymmetry – If you can draw a line through the mole and the 2 halves don’t match; it is asymmetrical.
Borders- The borders of the mole are not even. The edges may be notched or scalloped and look rough.
Colors- A variety of colors is a warning signal.
Diameter – Melanomas are usually larger than the size of your pencil eraser, but they may sometimes be smaller.
Evolving – any change is size, shape color, elevation or other traits or symptoms such as bleeding, itching or crusting points to potential danger and means you should meet with your doctor to get his/her opinion.
Should you have any of the warning signals above, you should see a doctor, so that you can be checked out. Remember, skin cancer is the most treatable cancer; but early detection is critical.
For more information about Skin Cancer, or to schedule a Skin Cancer consultation, please contact Dr. Garramone’s office today at 239-482-1900.