Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. The Center for Dermatology aims to provide you with information to help you with prevention and detection.
Types of Skin Cancer
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): Basal carcinomas begin in the lower (basal) layer of the skin. The skin cancer normally occurs in areas exposed to the sun, but may occur anywhere. Tanning bed users have a higher chance of getting BCC. It may appear as a shiny or pearly nodule, a sore that does not heal, or a slightly elevated pink growth or patch. While basal cell carcinomas rarely spread to other organs, they can grow wide and deep, and destroy surrounding tissue.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCC may appear as a firm nodule, scaly red patch or open sore. This cancer is also often associated with sun exposure and frequently occurs on the face, neck, arms or hands; however, like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma can appear on any area of the skin. Tanning bed users have a much higher risk of getting SCC, and it may also occur earlier in life. This type of cancer can spread to other parts of the body, so early detection and treatment is important to ensure the best prognosis.
- Melanoma: Melanomas begin in pigment-producing cells called melanocytes. Melanoma is the most serious of skin cancers because it can rapidly spread to lymph nodes and other parts of body. Early detection and proper treatment are essential for a high cure rate. While sun exposure increases the risk of melanoma, genetic factors such as family history are also important risk factor for this skin cancer.
Skin Cancer Screenings
Early detection of skin cancer increases the potential for a more effective treatment plan and higher cure rate, and diminishes the need for a highly invasive surgery. A skin cancer screening at the Center for Dermatology involves a visual inspection for overall assessment of the skin. We check for suspicious moles, growths and spots. Patients who have had skin cancer in the past are encouraged to return to our Center for an annual screening.
We also encourage patients to perform periodic skin exams at home. Look for any new or changing growths, spots or moles, or moles that look different from the rest. Normal moles tend to resemble each other, while melanomas tend to look different. A majority of melanomas are colored brown or dark, but could appear as pink or skin colored. Skin lesions that are itchy, bleeding or non-healing are also of concern. When checking your skin, look for the ABCDE’s of melanoma:
- A = Asymmetry: one half of the mole differs from the other
- B = Border: should not be irregular or jagged
- C = Color: should be uniform throughout
- D = Diameter: becomes a concern when a mole measures more than six millimeters across, about the size of a pencil eraser.
- E = Evolving or changing moles: any change, including size, color, shape, elevation, or new symptoms such as bleeding, itching or scabbing are considered alarming.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Avoid sunburn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply one ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your dermatologist every year for a professional skin exam.
(source: Skin Cancer Foundation)
Is Indoor Tanning Safe?
No. Tanning bed users have an increased chance of getting skin cancers, as well as having skin cancers earlier in life. Tanning bed use is highly discouraged, especially by minors. The amount of UV exposure from tanning beds is similar to or even stronger than that of the sun. Studies have found a 75% increase in the risk of developing melanoma from indoor tanning. The risk for developing Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma is also increased. UV exposure causes DNA damage in skin cells. In addition to skin cancers, the UV exposure from indoor tanning can lead to premature skin aging, and eye damage including cataracts and melanoma of the eye.