Skin Cancer

We are lucky to live in beautiful Napa Valley with lush vineyards surrounding us and near-constant sunshine. The outdoor lifestyle here is one of the best parts of living in this area. It is possible to continue to enjoy these wonderful aspects of Napa Valley while being safe in the sun. Unfortunately, without protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays, skin cancer may develop over time. Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in America. Wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher, wide-brimmed hats, and UPF photoprotective clothing are important daily habits in preventing skin cancer.

What about the damage that has already been done from sunburns past? To catch skin cancers early, annual skin examinations are recommended. When diagnosed quickly, most skin cancers are curable. At home, monthly self-exams should also be performed. There are two types of skin cancers to be aware of when examining your skin. They are nonmelanoma skin cancers and melanoma. There are two common types of nonmelanoma skin cancers called basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common skin cancer and is the most common cancer overall. BCC often presents itself as a pearly or pink-colored bump on the skin. It can also sometimes appear to be a wound or a blemish that never seems to heal.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) often appears as scaly pink or red plaque on the skin. SCC can be itchy, tender, painful, or can sometimes bleed. Just like BCC, it can also appear as a wound or blemish that does not heal.


Melanoma is an aggressive type of skin cancer that can be seen in all skin types. When diagnosed early, melanoma may be easily treatable. However, if advanced, melanoma can be fatal in some cases. Melanoma often looks like a very dark brown to black mole. The best way to detect a melanoma skin cancer is to remember the “ABCDEs” of melanoma when looking at your moles. This acronym stands for the following:

A: Asymmetry – This is when a spot is not symmetric in shape.

B: Border Irregularity – Jagged edges or any border that is not smooth is a concerning feature.

C: Color Variation – If more than one color is seen in a mole, it should be evaluated.

D: Diameter – Any moles larger than 6 mm, or about the size of a pencil eraser may indicate an abnormality.

E: Evolution – Evolution means change of any kind, such as growth, color change, itching, or bleeding.

It is important to be safe in the sun and have annual exams to keep your skin healthy for a lifetime. Skin cancer is a serious matter, especially when living in a sunny climate like Napa Valley. If caught early, however, most skin cancer is easily treatable.