04 Nov Skin Cancer Prevention is Year Round
Fall is a good time to practice skin cancer prevention and to learn about skin cancer treatment. The fall leaves are here and the summer sun may be gone, but it is not time to stop using sunscreen. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting any single organ of the body. In fact, it composes some 20% of all cancers in men and 10% in women. In the U.S., approximately 1,000,000 new skin cancers are diagnosed each year, with some 8,500 deaths resulting from skin cancer complications. The skin cancer rate surges for people entering their 40s, so the time to begin a rigorous sun block regime is well before that part of life.
Even with the many warnings about the hazards of sun exposure in the popular media, a golden tan is still a goal for many sun worshippers. How many of us were vigilant about using sunscreen in our childhood and teen years? Unfortunately, intense and frequent sunburns can increase the risk of the malignant transformation of moles, a much more serious form of the disease called “melanoma.” The sun is not the only source of concern when it comes to skin cancers. Another cause can be the ingestion of arsenical compounds.
Certain ethnic and geographic groups have more risk for skin cancer. The highest risk is for light-skinned individuals of Scandinavian descent. But even darker-skinned individuals can develop skin cancer, especially on parts of their bodies that have been exposed to excessive ultraviolet rays from the sun. Skin cancers can occur almost anywhere on the body, and they have even been known to develop on the scalp and lower extremities.
How does skin cancer develop? When exposure to the sun occurs, certain cells are stimulated to produce melanin. This substance darkens the skin in an effort to protect it. So a tan is actually your body’s way of dealing with the damage from the sun.
What are the signs of skin cancer? How do you know if you need skin cancer treatment?
There is usually no pain associated with early skin cancers. Keep an eye out for small, reddish-brown scaly patches, which are pre-malignant lesions. They are typically found on exposed areas, such as the face and backs of hands and arms, although they can also occur on any exposed areas. Sometimes these will gradually thicken and become skin cancers. Pay particular attention changes in any old burn scars, areas of repeated irritation, and non-healing wounds. Moles that become malignant show early signs by altering in size, shape, or color. They may bleed, or appear irritated with scaling, and subsequently thicken.
If you notice any of these symptoms on your body, contact our Dermatology Clinic in Long Beach right away. Even melanoma is highly treatable when found early enough. The experienced doctors at Ulmer and Wu Dermatology will examine the areas of concern and develop an appropriate skin cancer treatment plan for you, if it is required.