Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide.
In the U.S., more than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. More than two people die of the disease every hour. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. Residents of exceptionally sunny cities like Scottsdale and Phoenix are at even higher risk.
There are three major types of skin cancer — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. An estimated 4.3 million cases of BCC are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs in sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your neck or face.
Basal cell carcinoma may appear as:
- A pearly or waxy bump
- A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion
- A bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and returns
Squamous cell carcinoma most often occurs on sun-exposed areas of your body, such as your face, ears and hands. People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma on areas that aren’t often exposed to the sun.
Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as:
- A firm, red nodule
- A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface
Melanoma can develop anywhere on your body, in otherwise normal skin or in an existing mole that becomes cancerous. Melanoma most often appears on the face or the trunk of affected men. In women, this type of cancer most often develops on the lower legs. In both men and women, melanoma can occur on skin that hasn’t been exposed to the sun.
Melanoma can affect people of any skin tone. In people with darker skin tones, melanoma tends to occur on the palms or soles, or under the fingernails or toenails.
Melanoma signs include:
- A large brownish spot with darker speckles
- A mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds
- A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black
- A painful lesion that itches or burns
- Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus
Factors that may increase your risk of skin cancer include:
- Fair skin. Anyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer. However, having less pigment (melanin) in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair and light-colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you’re much more likely to develop skin cancer than is a person with darker skin.
- A history of sunburns. Having had one or more blistering sunburns as a child or teenager increases your risk of developing skin cancer as an adult. Sunburns in adulthood also are a risk factor.
- Excessive sun exposure. Anyone who spends considerable time in the sun may develop skin cancer, especially if the skin isn’t protected by sunscreen or clothing. Tanning, including exposure to tanning lamps and beds, also puts you at risk. A tan is your skin’s injury response to excessive UV radiation.
- Sunny or high-altitude climates. People who live in sunny, warm climates are exposed to more sunlight than are people who live in colder climates. Living at higher elevations, where the sunlight is strongest, also exposes you to more radiation.
- Moles. People who have many moles or abnormal moles called dysplastic nevi are at increased risk of skin cancer. These abnormal moles — which look irregular and are generally larger than normal moles — are more likely than others to become cancerous. If you have a history of abnormal moles, watch them regularly for changes.
- Precancerous skin lesions. Having skin lesions known as actinic keratoses can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. These precancerous skin growths typically appear as rough, scaly patches that range in color from brown to dark pink. They’re most common on the face, head and hands of fair-skinned people whose skin has been sun damaged.
- A family history of skin cancer. If one of your parents or a sibling has had skin cancer, you may have an increased risk of the disease.
- A personal history of skin cancer. If you developed skin cancer once, you’re at risk of developing it again.
- A weakened immune system. People with weakened immune systems have a greater risk of developing skin cancer. This includes people living with HIV/AIDS and those taking immunosuppressant drugs after an organ transplant.
- Exposure to radiation. People who received radiation treatment for skin conditions such as eczema and acne may have an increased risk of skin cancer, particularly basal cell carcinoma.
- Exposure to certain substances. Exposure to certain substances, such as arsenic, may increase your risk of skin cancer.
Most skin cancers are preventable. To protect yourself, follow these skin cancer prevention tips:
- Avoid the sun during the middle of the day. The sun’s rays are strongest between about 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even in winter or when the sky is cloudy.You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays. Avoiding the sun at its strongest helps you avoid the sunburns and suntans that cause skin damage and increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Sun exposure accumulated over time also may cause skin cancer.
- Wear sunscreen year-round. Sunscreens don’t filter out all harmful UV radiation, especially the radiation that can lead to melanoma. But they play a major role in an overall sun protection program.Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours — or more often if you’re swimming or perspiring. Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your hands and neck.
- Wear protective clothing. Sunscreens don’t provide complete protection from UV rays. So cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does.Don’t forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types of UV radiation — UVA and UVB rays.
- Avoid tanning beds. Lights used in tanning beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
- Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications. Some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.Ask your provider or pharmacist about the side effects of any medications you take. If they increase your sensitivity to sunlight, take extra precautions to stay out of the sun in order to protect your skin.
- Check your skin regularly and report changes to your provider. Examine your skin often for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks.With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk, and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands. Examine both the front and back of your legs, and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks.
Regular skin checks are vital for catching skin cancer early. This means checking your skin at least once a month at home, and
Life Saving Annual Skin Checks with a Dermatology Certified Provider
What should I expect during the skin check?
if you haven’t had a skin check in more than a year, it’s time to schedule an appointment for a complete skin exam with a Dermatology Certified Provider.
Some patients think that their primary care physician is just as equipped to conduct a skin check but this isn’t the case. Your family doctor deals with a wide range of health issues, while a Dermatology Certified Provider is highly trained in identifying skin cancer and examines skin lesions multiple times per day, every day.
If you don’t have a Dermatology Certified Provider yet, Ryan at Le Reve Aesthetics will be glad to see you.What should I expect during the skin check?
When you are seen for a complete skin exam, you will be shown to a completely private room where you will be offered a gown to change into, expect a thorough head-to-toe skin examination. This is also a good time to ask about any spots you are worried about to discuss them. After inspection, Ryan will discuss his findings with you and you will come up with a treatment plan together.
What happens if something abnormal is suspected?
If a suspicious mole is noticed, Ryan will discuss taking a biopsy. In case you have never had a biopsy, it is a quick and simple procedure. We use local anesthetic and take a small tissue sample, which is then sent out to be analyzed under a microscope by a board certified dermatopathologist. The purpose of the biopsy is to diagnose the condition, not treat it, so at your follow up appointment, Ryan will discuss the results of your biopsy in detail, provide you a copy of your pathology report, and discuss your treatment options. Many of the available treatment options can be performed in the office the very same day or scheduled at a time most convenient for you.
Call us today to schedule a Skin Cancer Screening appointment today!