As we head into more sunny summer days, it’s important to consider sun protection. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 9,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
However, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.
Monthly skin self-exams, awareness of the warning signs of melanomas and early detection have been the best defense in the fight against skin cancer – helping to improve survival rates. However, skin cancer survival rates vary depending on the type of cancer diagnosed.
Types of skin cancer and early detection
Here are some important things to keep in mind when it comes to some of the different types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common skin cancer. It grows very slowly and almost never metastasizes. According to the American Cancer Society treatment depends on factors such as the tumor size, location, a person’s age and general health.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer. Most cases are easily treated; however, SCC is more likely than BCC to be invasive and metastatic. The treatment is to remove the tumor.
- Melanoma is less common than non-melanoma skin cancers, but it is also more dangerous. The CDC reports the estimated five-year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is detected early is about 99% in the U.S. However, the survival rate falls to 63% when the disease reaches the lymph nodes and 20% when the disease metastasizes to distant organs.
This is why spotting the signs of skin cancer early is so important. During a self-examination, pay attention to a change in the skin, a growth on the skin, a sore that doesn’t heal, and a change in a mole on the skin. These are all potential symptoms of skin cancer and should be brought to your healthcare provider’s attention.
Remember the ‘ABCs’ to help catch early signs of skin cancer:
- A – Asymmetrical: The shape of one half does not match the other. Is the mole/spot an irregular shape with two spots that look very different?
- B – Border. Are the edges of the mole/spot blurred, ragged, or irregular?
- C – Color. Is the mole/spot unevenly colored? If the color is uneven, it may include shades of black, brown, or tan.
- D – Diameter. Is the mole/spot larger than the size of a pea? Is the size of the mole/spot changing or growing larger?
- E – Evolving. Has the mole/spot changed over several weeks or months?
Reducing your overall risk: Avoid tanning beds and sun exposure
Skin cancer risk can be reduced by avoiding UV lights, either from the sun or tanning beds. Here are some important facts about tanning beds from the American Academy of Dermatology:
- It is a myth that tanning beds are safer than the sun. Science tells us that there’s no such thing as a safe tanning bed, tanning booth, or sun lamp. Just one indoor tanning session can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
- Getting a base tan cannot prevent sunburn. Many people believe that using a tanning bed to get a base tan will prevent sunburn. That is not true. If you have a base tan, you can still get burned from sun exposure.
- Indoor tanning puts women at high risk. Women who tan indoors before they turn 30 are six times more likely to get melanoma.
If you plan to spend time outside in the sun, physicians at Ascension Wisconsin recommend following these five tips to make sure you are protected at all times.
- Stay in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear clothes that cover the arms and legs.
- Wear a hat that shades the face, head, ears and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen with sun protection of 30 or more, with UVA and UVB protection.
It’s never too late to start protecting your skin from the sun and indoor tanning beds. As soon as you do, your body starts to repair some of the damage caused by the UV rays.
Ascension Wisconsin Skin Cancer Care
Yasmine S. Sido, PA-C, works for Ascension Medical Group and specializes in medical and surgical dermatology. She primarily sees patients at Ascension SE Wisconsin Hospital – Franklin Campus, located at 10101 South 27th Street in Franklin. For appointments, call 262-687-8677.
Our experienced Ascension Wisconsin dermatologists and cancer doctors share best practices and the latest in skin cancer treatment and research – bringing the best of cancer care to you. Dermatologists at Ascension Wisconsin sites of care deliver personalized care for early-stage skin cancer – basal and squamous cell cancer and melanoma.
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