Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, representing more than one out of every three new cancers.
"It is also one of the easiest cancers to cure, if diagnosed and treated early," advised General Surgeon Amanda Baright, D.O. "However, when it is allowed to progress, skin cancer can result in disfigurement and even death.
"Performed regularly, skin self-examination can alert you to changes in your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer. For most people, a self-exam once a month is ideal, but ask your doctor if you should do more frequent checks. You may find it helpful to have a doctor perform a full-body exam first, to assure you that any existing spots, freckles, or moles are normal or treat any that may not be."
The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. "Because each cancer has different appearances, it is important to know the early warning signs," Dr. Baright advised. "Look for changes to the skin. Don't ignore a suspicious spot simply because it doesn't hurt, since skin cancers may be painless. If you notice one of the following warning signs, see a doctor right away."
Skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m..
- Avoid sun tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your body 30 minutes before going outside.
- Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. No sunscreen for under the age of 6 months.
Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
A mole, birthmark, or any brown spot that:
- changes color or texture or is irregular in shape
- increases in size or thickness
- is bigger than 6mm or 1/4", (size of a pencil eraser)
- appears after age 21
- a spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or bleed
- an open sore that does not heal within three weeks
Types of Skin Cancer
Actinic Keratosis (AK): These scaly or crusty growths (lesions) are caused by damage from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. They typically appear on the face, bald scalp, lips, and back of the hands, and are often elevated, rough and resemble warts. Most become red, but some will be tan, pink, and/or flesh-toned. Untreated AKs can advance to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common form of skin cancer. It is estimated that about 58 million people have AK, and up to 10 percent may advance to SCC.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): SCCs often look like scaly red patches, open sores, or warts; and they may crust or bleed. They are an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin's upper layers or epidermis. SCC is mainly caused by cumulative UV exposure over a person's lifetime.
"SCCs may occur on all areas of the body including the mucous membranes and genitals, but are most common in areas frequently exposed to the sun, such as the ear, lip, face, bald scalp, neck, hands, arms and legs," she stated. "Often the skin in these areas reveals signs of sun damage, like wrinkling, pigmentation changes and loss of elasticity."
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): BCC is the most frequently occurring form of cancer. These abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions arise in the skin's basal cells, which line the outermost layer of the skin. "BCCs often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars," Dr. Baright said. "Usually caused by UV exposure, BCCs can be highly disfiguring if allowed to grow, but almost never spread beyond the original tumor site."
Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer, these cancerous growths develop when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations that leads skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These tumors originate in the pigment-producing melanocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis. Melanomas often resemble moles and the majority are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. Melanoma is caused mainly by UV exposure (frequently leading to sunburn), especially in those who are genetically predisposed to the disease.
"If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable," Dr. Baright warned. "But if it is not, this cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal."
"While squamous cell carcinomas and other skin cancers are almost always curable when detected and treated early, it is best to prevent them in the first place," Dr. Baright continued. "About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. People should use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher as one important part of a complete sun protection regimen. However, sunscreen alone is not enough to protect a person from skin cancer."
Skin Cancer Screening Offered June 26
Dr. Amanda Baright will be providing free skin cancer screenings on Tuesday, June 26 from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., at Salem Community Hospital's Outpatient Clinic, located on the ground floor of the Hospital, 1995 East State St. in Salem. Those interested in having a skin cancer screening should schedule an appointment in advance by calling SCH Marketing, 330-332-7152.
Amanda Baright, D.O., is a general surgeon affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's medical staff. Her office is located at 2094 East State Street, Suite A in Salem, 330-337-2868.