Your skin. It’s your body’s largest organ and a powerful protector — and yet it often goes unappreciated until there’s a problem…like skin cancer.
Dr. Marcus B. Goodman, a dermatologist who regularly visits St. George Village to provide free skin care checks to residents, believes that prevention, early diagnosis and rapid treatment are the keys to maintaining healthy skin. Dr. Goodman shares the following information.
What are signs of possible skin cancer?
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells start growing abnormally, causing cancerous growths. Most skin cancers develop on the visible outer layer of the skin (the epidermis), particularly in sun-exposed areas (face, head, hands, arms and legs). They are usually easy to detect by examining the skin, which increases the chances of early treatment and survival.
Another effective weapon against skin cancer is regular self-exams. Get to know the landscape of your skin and take an inventory of all moles.
Because skin cancer can resemble other skin conditions, be sure to tell your doctor about unusual skin changes or lesions, especially:
• A sore that comes and goes, but never completely heals
• A shiny bump or nodule, especially if it appears pearly or translucent (these can look brown or reddish and resemble a mole)
• A slightly raised pink growth with a crusted depression in the center, possibly with tiny blood vessels visible on the surface
• A patch of skin that is red or irritated, especially on the chest, shoulders or limbs
• A white or yellowish waxy scar with poorly defined borders
What precautions should be taken to prevent skin cancer?
The best protection against skin cancer is to minimize sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you do go out in the sun, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB), making sure to cover the head, lips, hands, neck, and ears. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sun- glasses, and protective clothing. Not only will this dramatically decrease your risk of skin cancer, but it will also prevent other sun-damaging conditions, like wrinkles and actinic keratoses.
While everyone should minimize their exposure to the sun, fair-skinned people, outdoor workers, and residents of sunny climates should use particular caution. If you have any risk factors, such as prolonged sun exposure, family history, or a past cancerous lesion, you may benefit from having your skin checked regularly by your doctor.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
Basal cell carcinoma (also called BCC) comes from the basal cells in lowest part of the epidermis. Approximately 80-85% percent of skin cancers are BCCs.
Squamous cell carcinoma (also called SCC) comes from the skin cells (keratinocytes) that make up the top layers of the skin. About 10% of skin cancers are SCC.
Melanoma comes from skin cells called melanocytes, which create pigment called melanin that gives skin its color. Five percent of all skin cancers are melanoma. Although less common, it is a very dangerous type of skin cancer and is the leading cause of death from skin disease.
How is skin cancer treated?
In general, the treatment plan is based on the risk of the cancer spreading to another location or growing again (recurring) in the same location. Cancers that are likely to spread or recur are treated more aggressively. Treatment options include:
• Procedures (Cryosurgery, Curettage-electrodessication, Excision and Mohs surgery)
• Radiation and chemotherapy may be recom-mended in cases when the cancer has spread, or when other medical conditions prevent the use of other treatments.