10 Things You Should Know About Skin Cancer
by Melisa Ferhatovic
Since the skin is the most visible organ of the human body, anything abnormal is easily distinguished. If you notice changes in the color, tone, or condition of your skin, chances are a disease is lurking right around the corner. A simple change in the color of a mole can lead to a possible diagnosis of other serious conditions that involve other body systems. Taking notice of that change could possibly save your life. Skin cancer can affect anyone regardless their age, gender, race, and other characteristics. Here are 10 things you should know about skin cancer to aid in taking better care of your skin:
1. Skin cancer is the most common. Out of the 2 million people that get screened each year for skin cancer, and extra 1.5 million end up diagnosed with skin cancer. 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer (4).
2. There are 3 cancers of the skin:
A. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. It is the least fatal. It is slow growing and the usual cure is by getting is surgically removed – it is 99% effective!
B. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. It grows rapidly and if not removed it will metastasize. There is a good cure rate with surgical removal or radiation therapy of this cancer.
C. Melanoma is the third most common form of skin cancer. The majority of the mutations one undergoes when diagnosed with melanoma all point back to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This cancer is highly metastatic and does not respond well to chemotherapy. About a third of the diagnosed cases come from preexisting moles. If the cancer is detected early, then the survival rate is good. If the cancer is detected once the disease has advanced, then the survival rate is very poor (Snaric).
*Know this rule of melanoma (ABCD rule):
-> Asymmetry of mole – sides/edges of mole/spot do not match
-> Border irregularity – jagged ends of mole/spot
-> Color – mole/spot contains more than one color (black, brown, red, and tan)
-> Diameter – mole/spot is larger than a pencil eraser (6mm)
3. BCC and SCC usually occur on the parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. BCC usually appears as a frosted bump, or a flat, flesh/brown colored scrape. SCC usually appears as a firm, red bump, or a flat scrape with a crusty, scale-like covering (2).
4. Melanoma usually appears as a large brown spot with specks of different colors, a mole that has started to change, a small lesion with a jagged border and different colors, and as dark lesions (2).
5. Signs and symptoms of skin cancer include:
- any change in the skin (especially in a mole/spot or a new growth occurs),
- and pain (5).
6. UV radiation is, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services, a proven cancer causing agent. Going indoor tanning just once increases risk for melanoma by 75%. People who go to tanning salons are about 3 times more likely to develop SCC and about 2 times more likely to develop BCC (3).
7. Sun damage in general can be prevented by using a sunblock with a SPF of 15. Fair skinned individuals should choose a sunblock with a SPF of 20 to 30. There are chemicals inside the sunblock that absorb the UV rays so fewer UV rays are able to get to the skin (2).
8. Preventive methods against sun damage include:
- limiting sun exposure and avoiding unprotected sun exposure,
- wearing hats and protective clothing while outside,
- using a waterproof/resistant sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher,
- doing self exams and having regular check-ups,
- avoiding the use of tanning beds (2).
9. A family history of skin cancer usually increases a person’s risk of the disease. If you have developed the cancer once and removed it successfully, you are still at a risk of developing it again (5).
10. With increasing age, the immune system weakens. Weaker immune systems make one more prone to developing any cancer. If one is a smoker and they have a weak immune system, they are more vulnerable to diseases. According to a study done in the Netherlands, smokers are more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer. There is belief that the toxins from the cigarettes damage the skin and reduce oxygen flow in the blood (1).
1. Hurrel. What Causes Skin Cancer? Here Are 10 Things You Should Really Know. 9 October 2009. Ezine Articles. 6 December 2010. Http://ezinearticles.com/?What-Causes-Skin- Cancer?-Here-Are-10-Things-You-Really-Should-Know&id=3064175.
2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Skin Cancer. 5 November 2010. Mayo Clinic. 7 December 2010. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/skin-cancer/DS00190.
3. Polsky, David, and Wang, Steven. Skin Cancer Facts. 2010. The Skin Cancer Foundation. 7 December 2010. http://www.skincancer.org/Skin-Cancer-Facts/.
4. Skin Cancer Facts. 30 April 2010. The American Cancer Society. 6 December 2010. http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/SunandUVExposure/skin-cancer-facts.
Snaric, Jay. Integumentary System Lecture. Spring 2010. Anatomy and Physiology I. 6 December 2010.
5. Rockoff, Alan. Skin Cancer. 9 April 2008. Medicine Net. 7 December 2010. http://www.medicinenet.com/skin_cancer/page3.htm.