About 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. All three are known to be associated with skin damage caused by the sun or tanning beds. These cancers are preventable and treatable with early detection. Knowing the signs and symptoms to look for can help keep you and your family healthy.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Although it represents only about 1% of all skin cancers, it is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Melanoma occurs when the pigment producing cells in the skin are damaged and become cancerous. Therefore melanoma most often has the appearance of an abnormal mole. Melanoma can be cured when detected early. However, if the cancer metastasizes it is very difficult to treat and can be fatal. When looking at your own skin it is important to keep in mind the “ABCDEs” of melanoma.
Treatment of Skin Cancer
The treatment of skin cancer involves the removal or destruction of the cancerous cells. Depending on the type of skin cancer and depth of tumor your doctor may recommend a scrape and burn procedure (electrodessication and curettage), a cream, surgical excision or Mohs surgery.
Prevention of Skin Cancer
In the majority of cases skin cancer results from repeated exposure to UV radiation. UVA radiation and UVB radiation are the damaging wavelengths produced by the sun. Tanning beds primarily produce UVA radiation.
When spending time outdoors it is important to take precautions to avoid excessive exposure to the sun’s dangerous UV rays. Seeking shade and avoidance of the sun’s peak hours between 10AM and 2PM is recommended. Sun protective clothing such as hats and clothing with a UPF 50+ rating are easy and effective ways to protect the skin. When choosing a sunblock look for a SPF 50+ rating and broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) coverage.
A sunburn is the body’s response to severe damage caused by UV radiation from the sun or tanning beds. The peeling and redness seen with a sunburn is the result of irreversible damage to cells. A tan also results from cell damage and is the body’s attempt to prevent further harm. There is no such thing as a “safe tan” or the ability of a “base tan” to prevent sun damage. In fact, tanning beds have been recognized by the World Health Organization as a known carcinogen. Read more about the dangers of tanning here (www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care).
Visit www.skincancer.org for more information about skin cancer and how to stay safe in the sun.