Skin Cancer Screening
Skin Cancer Protection
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. Two types of UV radiation cause skin cancer: UVA and UVB. It is important to check the label on sunscreen products to make sure that it is formulated to block both UVA and UVB radiation. Always wear sunscreen and protective clothing when you are outside to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Wearing a hat and sunglasses will also reduce the risk of skin cancer. Indoor tanning will increase the risk of skin cancer.
Smokers and users of tobacco products have an increased risk of developing skin cancer, especially squamous cell cancer. People that use coal-tar products have a higher risk of developing skin cancer. Coal-tar is a coal byproduct and is used in a small number of household products.
Who Gets Skin Cancer. . . and Why?
Everyone is at risk of developing skin cancer. Scientists have many theories about why people get skin cancer: a change in lifestyle, a change in the ozone layer, and an increase in the amount of sun exposure. The risk of skin cancer increases if:
- You freckle easily
- You have fair skin
- You have moles
- You have light-colored eyes
- You have light-colored hair
- You spend a lot of time outdoors
- You have a history of sunburns
- You have a weak immune system
- You received radiation treatments for acne
- You have a personal history of skin cancer
- A family member has been diagnosed with skin cancer
Types of Skin Cancer
There are two general types of skin cancer: nonmelanoma and melanoma. Nonmelanoma cancer types include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. They rarely spread to other parts of the body and grow slowly. Melanoma cancer multiplies rapidly and infects other parts of the body.
One of the most common types of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma (BCC). BCC is the least life-threatening type of skin cancer. However, if not properly treated, it can grow in depth, damage surrounding cells, and/or damage bones.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is another common type of skin cancer. Although SCC is a type of skin cancer, it appears in many places in the body, for example, it is commonly found in lymph nodes, internal organs, and the digestive tract. SCC typically occurs later in life.
A less common type of skin cancer is malignant melanoma. However, it is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Malignant melanoma needs to be identified and treated as soon as possible. In some people, the malignant melanoma is colored. White, pink, purple, red, blue, or black are the usual colors. If malignant melanoma is treated in the early stages, the survival rates are high. If malignant melanoma is not treated in the early stages, the fatality rate is significantly higher.
Other Skin Growths You Should Know About
Moles and keratosis are types of skin growths that are associated with skin cancer.
Some moles may develop into malignant melanoma. They can be brown or black; raised or flat; regular in shape or irregular in shape. Moles that are irregular in shape or larger than a pencil in size should be screened for skin cancer. Moles will sometimes itch, ooze, or bleed, and those need to be screened for skin cancer, as well.
Actinic keratosis is scaly, rough patches on the skin. They are usually red or brown. Actinic keratosis can potentially develop into squamous cell cancer. They are usually found on areas of the skin that have been repeatedly exposed to the sun.
Detecting Skin Cancer
There is a common rule of thumb to remember to help you detect early signs of skin cancer — it is called the “ABCDE” method:
- Asymmetry. Do the two sides match?
- Border. Are the edges irregular?
- Color. Is the tone or shade even?
- Diameter. Has it increased in size?
- Evolving. Any dramatic changes?
Treatment for Skin Cancer
The treatment for BCC and SCC is the removal of the cancerous area. After the cancerous area is removed, it is burned, frozen, or treated with radiation. Treatment of smaller areas of skin cancer is a fairly simple procedure.
Treatment for BCC and SCC when the skin cancer is in a later stage, or if the cancer is spreading, is more intense. The area is skin cancer is removed, with some patients requiring chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments.
Some types of skin cancer can be disfiguring and will need special treatment methods. Skin cancer treatment is unique to each client.
Treatment for malignant melanoma includes surgically removing the cancerous area. Chemotherapy treatment and prescription drugs are sometimes used to treat malignant melanoma.
Malignant melanoma travels the body through lymph nodes and/or the blood system. Sometimes a lymph node biopsy or lymph node mapping is used to treat malignant melanoma because it spreads to other parts of the body. A CAT scan or PET scan may be used for treatment purposes.
A new treatment for malignant melanoma is immunotherapy. The goal of immunotherapy is to kill cancer by using the body’s immune system. This type of treatment stimulates the immune system. Experimental treatments are sometimes used to treat malignant melanoma.
Preventing a Recurrence
After you’ve been treated for skin cancer, Dr. Humphrey will schedule regular follow-up visits to make sure cancer remains in remission. Although we can not prevent a recurrence, there are a few things you can do to decrease that risk of recurrence:
- All year-round, but especially in the summer when the sun’s rays are most powerful, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Remember, ultraviolet rays pass right through water and clouds, and reflect off sand and snow.
- Protective clothing such as wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves are recommended when you must be outdoors for an extended period of time.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 when outdoors. If you’ve been swimming or excessively sweating, please reapply frequently.
- Lastly, examine your skin regularly. If anything suspicious is found, please consult Dr. Humphrey as soon as possible.
If you are interested in any of these procedures, please contact Dr. Humphrey of Heartland Plastic & Hand Surgery in Cape Girardeau, Missouri to make an appointment for a consultation. He has helped numerous patients from Cape Girardeau, as well as from the Jackson and Sikeston areas. During your consultation, we will discuss your desired look, what the procedure entails, how long it will take, and what the recovery will be like. Call us today!