What is skin cancer and how is it caused?
Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers. Estimates vary on its occurrence, but it is estimated that approximately 500,000 Americans develop skin cancer every year. The principal cause of skin cancer is almost universally accepted by medical experts to be overexposure to sunlight. Other factors may include: medical history, industrial radiation, scarring from severe burns, occupational exposure to compounds such as arsenic, and genetic factors.
What are the main types of skin cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is by far the most common form of skin cancer. It usually appears as a pink or red bump in sun-exposed areas such as the face, neck, and chest. These new or growing bumps can look like a scab or sore and may bleed easily. If untreated, basal cell carcinoma will continue to grow in size, begin to bleed and scab, and will not heal. Although this type of cancer does not typically metastasize (spread to other parts of the body), it can grow quite large, often larger than what it appears to be on the surface of the skin.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer and is also most often caused by sun exposure. It may appear as a scab, growing bump or as red, scaly non-healing patches. Unlike basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell has a small potential to metastasize and spread to other parts of the body if ignored and untreated. Luckily, the cure rate for both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma can be close to 100 percent, when treated properly and in a timely manner. Our very own Dr. Melanie R. Haynes is specially trained to diagnose and treat skin cancers of all types.
Malignant melanoma is a less common, but potentially more dangerous type of skin cancer. Our yearly, full-body skin exams are geared to detect melanomas early. Melanoma has the potential to metastasize and become life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. Early detection and treatment can lead to excellent prognosis. Melanoma may appear as a new spot or within an existing mole. For that reason, it is important that we are familiar with the location and appearance of the moles on your body so that new spots and changes are noticed. Excessive sun exposure, as with the other skin cancers, is the most common cause of melanoma, especially among light-skinned individuals. A history of tanning bed or salon use significantly increases a person’s risk for melanoma. Atypical moles, which may run in families, can also serve as markers and help to identify people as being at a higher risk for developing melanoma there or elsewhere in the skin.
How can I check for melanoma?
The Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend using the ABCDE method to help detect melanoma:
A = Asymmetry. Check to see if one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half.
B = Border irregularity. Check to see if the edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
C = Color. Check to see if the pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black will be present.
D = Diameter. Check to see if the spot is greater than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser). Any change in the size of a mole should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
E = Elevation. Check to see if the mole becomes elevated or raised.
Some additional warning signs can include: moles or new growths that scab or bleed, or new symptoms such as pain or itching. Similar to the less aggressive basal cell and squamous cell cancers, melanoma has a much higher cure rate when it is detected early.
How can I prevent skin cancer?
Prevention is a matter of guarding the skin against the known causes. Since the sun is typically the main culprit, the most effective preventive method is sun avoidance. You can also limit your exposure to harmful UV rays by covering up and using sunscreens with at least a 15 SPF rating. If any growth, mole, sore, or discoloration appears suddenly or begins to change, please schedule an appointment at Skin Wellness Center as soon as possible. Fortunately, skin cancers are relatively easy to detect and most can be cured. Even malignant melanoma, if caught in its early stages, has very high cure rates. Self-exams and yearly full body in-office exams by a dermatologist can be life-saving.
How is skin cancer treated?
Early detection is key. Make a routine of inspecting your body for any skin changes. If any growth, mole, sore, or discoloration appears suddenly or begins to change, please call us for an appointment. It is very important to identify skin cancers early so they can be treated appropriately.
What is a skin cancer screening?
A skin cancer screening is a visual inspection of your skin by a medical professional. No blood work is conducted at a screening. It is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology to have a full body examination yearly by your skin care provider. At Skin Wellness Center, we specialize in thorough skin cancer screenings and the appropriate treatments.
Request treatments in Pinellas County, Florida
If you have a spot or mole that you think might be skin cancer, schedule an appointment at our office in Pinellas Park, Florida. Our board-certified dermatologists will assess your skin and discuss the next steps with you. You can also schedule your yearly skin exams with us. To set up an appointment, request one online or give us a call at (727) 545-3376 today.