What are skin cancers/melanoma?
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma each arise from different cell types in the top layer of the skin
- BCC and SCC are far more common than melanoma and also less dangerous
- Over 2 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with BCC and SCC annually
- In comparison, approximately 139,000 people will be newly diagnosed this year with melanoma – the most deadly form of skin cancer
What does skin cancer look like?
- BCC and SCC are usually raised pink areas that are scaly, shiny, crusted, or non-healing
- Melanoma is typically brown, black, or multicolored. Melanoma usually starts as a flat spot, and in some cases stays that way for months or years, but eventually it will turn into a bump
- There are many completely benign skin spots that can resemble skin cancer, but if you have any question, the best approach is to get your skin checked by a professional
What can you do to catch skin cancer early?
- Keep an eye out for any changes in your skin
- Make a habit of regularly checking your entire skin surface from head to toe, about once a month
- Consider having an annual skin check completed by your dermatologist or primary care physician
- Be sure to have anything you think is suspicious checked out by your dermatologist
What measures can we take to protect ourselves?
- Take advantage of shade. This can be accomplished by using an umbrella at the pool or beach, a hat, sunglasses and keeping your shirt on while mowing the lawn. Though it is important to remember that the sun rays can bounce so even if you are in the shade, you may not be completely protected
- If you know your skin will be exposed, broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen would provide adequate protection
- Don't be stingy with applying the sunscreen – you have to use a generous layer to achieve the SPF on the label and reapply!
- Reapply the sunscreen every couple of hours if you'll be outside for a long time and more often if you're swimming or sweating
- Avoid tanning booths! They do not protect you from the damage the ultraviolet rays are doing to your skin and they increase the risk of melanoma
Facts about skin cancer:
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States with more than 3.5 million skin cancers in over two million people are diagnosed annually
- Melanoma is more than 20 times more common in Caucasian Americans than in African Americans
- The risk of melanoma increases with age – the average age at the time it is found is 62
- The 5-year survival rate for patients, whose melanoma is detected early, before the tumor has penetrated the skin, is about 97 percent
For more information regarding the detection and prevention of skin cancer, please visit the following: