Skin protection is an important part of everyday health and wellness, especially in the summer when the sun’s rays are most intense. Keep your skin safe with adequate skin protection and by learning the risks and signs of skin cancer.
More than three million people in this country are diagnosed with basal cell (BCC) and squamous cell (SCC) skin cancers each year. Both types are common and almost always cured when found early and properly treated. Sun exposure is the most important environmental cause of BCC and SCC skin cancers.
There are also almost 100,000 new cases of melanoma each year, resulting in approximately 10,000 annual deaths. Melanoma skin cancers are more aggressive and not as easily treated as BCC and SCC skin cancers.
If you have a parent or sibling diagnosed with melanoma, you are 3-4 times more likely to develop the disease, compared to someone without a family history of melanoma.
People with fair skin, light eyes and light hair run a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Other risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Having more and/or irregular moles.
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns, including a history of indoor tanning bed use.
- Living closer to the Equator, with year-round sunshine.
- Previous radiation treatments.
Preventing skin cancer
Everyone should use sunscreen daily with an SPF of 30 or higher. One ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) is needed to cover all the exposed areas of the body. Limit your exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. When outdoors, wear a hat and sunglasses and cover up with clothing to protect your skin.
What does skin cancer look like?
All types of skin cancer (melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma) often start as changes to your skin that continue to grow and change in size or appearance. They may start to bleed or scab. They could be new growths or arise from previously normal-appearing growths. .
Follow the ABCDE rule
Know the “ABCDE” rule to evaluate any skin changes that might indicate skin cancer, especially melanoma. Check to see if any mole or freckle has:
- An Asymmetrical appearance. For example, one half of a mole does not seem to match the other half.
- Irregular Borders or ragged or blurred edges.
- A Color that is not consistent. A mole that doesn’t have the same color throughout or has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red is suspicious.
- Increased in Diameter. A mole is suspicious if the diameter is larger than the eraser tip of a pencil.
- Evolved in character or is spreading. Melanoma lesions often grow in size or rapidly change in height.
A dermatologist should check any mole or freckle that looks different from others or shows any characteristics of the ABCDE rule.
The dermatologist may want to remove a tissue sample from a suspicious mole and biopsy it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it needs be removed. Additional treatment may be required.
Remember, if you notice any changes to your skin such as a new growth, a mole changing in appearance, or a sore that won’t heal, get it checked out promptly.
Dr. Alexander Means is a dermatologist at the Aurora Health Center in Oshkosh, located at 135 Jackson St. His office can be reached at 920-303-8700.