Your skin is your body’s largest organ. It helps protects against sunlight, infection and injury as well as regulates your body temperature and storage of fat and water. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. It is caused by malignant cells forming in the tissues of the skin.
Who is most at risk for skin cancer?
The following are most at risk for skin cancer:
- People who tan or use tanning beds
- People who get sunburned
- People with light skin
- People with many freckles or moles
- People with a family history of skin cancer
- People with blue eyes
Can skin cancer be prevented?
In most cases, skin cancer can be prevented. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid too much sunlight and sunburns. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun damage the skin, and over time lead to skin cancer.
Here are ways to protect you from skin cancer:
- Seek shade. Don’t spend long periods of time (more than an hour) in direct sunlight.
- Wear hats with wide brims to protect your face and ears.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your arms and legs.
- Use broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF (skin protection factor) of 30 or higher that protect against burning and tanning rays. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside. (Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against UV-B and UV-A rays.)
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
- Use a lip balm with sunscreen.
- Avoid the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Show any changing mole to your healthcare provider.
Routine skin exams by your physician are a vital part to detecting skin cancer early. During a skin exam, your physician will check for moles, birthmarks or other pigmented areas that appear abnormal in color, size, shape or texture. If you have an area of skin that looks abnormal, please contact your physician to set up a skin exam.
What are the signs of skin cancer?
Skin cancer can be a spot that does not heal. If you scrap your knee, it will usually heal within a month. Skin cancer will not heal.
Skin cancers can appear as moles, scaly patches, open sores, or raised bumps. These signs can vary, depending on the form of skin cancer. Different types of skin cancer share some of the same signs, so it’s important to get any moles or bumps of concern checked. Here are some signs to look for:
Signs of skin cancer (ABCDE):
(A) Asymmetry: irregular shape.
(B) Border: blurry or irregularly shaped edges.
(C) Color: mole with more than one color.
(D) Diameter: larger than a pencil eraser. (6 mm)
(E) Evolution: enlarging, changing in shape, color, or size. (This is the most important sign.)
How can I know if I have skin cancer?
If you have a mole or other skin lesion that is causing you concern, show it to your healthcare provider. He or she will check your skin and may ask you to see another doctor to have the lesion further evaluated. If needed to help with the diagnosis, the doctor can take a biopsy (remove a small sample) and send it to a laboratory to be examined under a microscope. The doctor will be able to call you with the results in about a week.
Skin Exam- During this exam, a doctor or nurse will evaluate the skin for bumps or spots that appear abnormal.
Skin Biopsy – A physician or nurse will take all or part of the abnormal-looking skin and exam for any signs of cancer.
Your physician will take into consideration a variety of factors when determining your treatment plan. Some of these factors include:
- Stage of cancer
- Your age
- Your overall health
- Possible side effects
Be sure to talk to your physician about all of your treatment options and what is best for you. Your physician might recommend one or more of the following treatment options:
Surgery – This treatment allows your physician to go in and remove the tumor from the skin..
Radiation Therapy – This treatment uses high-energy x-rays/radiation to help kill the cancer cells or keep them from growing. Radiation therapy can be delivered in a variety of ways. Internally, where the radiation is delivered directly into the cancer or externally, where a machine delivers radiation outside the body. The way radiation therapy is given will depend on the type and stage of your cancer.
Chemotherapy – This treatment option uses drugs to help stop the growth of cancer cells by either killing them or preventing them from dividing. They way that you receive chemotherapy
Biologic therapy – This is a treatment that uses your own immune system to help fight the cancer cells. Substance manufactured by your own body or laboratory are used to boost your body’s natural defense against cancer.
Targeted Therapy – A treatment that uses drugs or other substances to identify and attack specific cancer cells without harming cells.
Photodynamic Therapy – A treatment that uses a drug and certain type of laser light to kill cancer cells.
NEW CASES – It is estimated that skin cancer makes up 5.2 percent of all new cancer cases.
LIFETIME RISK – Approximately 2.2 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point throughout their life.
MEDIAN AGE – The average age of diagnosis is 64