Wellness Done Well: Skin Cancer Awareness

Wellness Done Well: Skin Cancer Awareness

Wellness Done Well: Skin Cancer Awareness


May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month – as the sun starts to shine more, we have to remember to protect our skin.

Skin Cancer Basics

There are three major types of skin cancer:

1. Basal cell.

2. Squamous cell.

3. Melanoma. ·

Basal cell and squamous cell cancers (non-melanomas) are the most common and usually develop on areas of the body most exposed to sun. They rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, begins in melanocytes — the cells that produce melanin, which gives skin its coloring. Melanoma occurs when melanocytes become cancerous. It can appear anywhere on the body, even in areas not exposed to the sun.

What Are Your Chances of Getting Skin Cancer? ·

Common symptoms of skin cancer are:

  • A change in the number, size, color, or surface of a mole or darkly pigmented spot.
  • A new growth or a sore that does not heal.
  • The spread of pigmentation past the edge of a mole or mark.
  • Moles with a change in sensation — itchiness, tenderness or pain.

Changes in your skin are not always a sign of cancer. It is important to see your health care provider if any changes last longer than two weeks.

Are You at Risk of Developing Skin Cancer?

Anyone can get skin cancer. You are at an increased risk if you have:

  • ·Excessive and/or unprotected exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, including natural sunlight, sun lamps and tanning booths.
  • Fair skin that burns and blisters easily in the sun.
  • Blond or red hair; blue, green, or gray eyes. ·
  • Worked with coal tar, pitch creosote, arsenic compounds or radium.
  • A personal or family history of skin cancer.
  • Have had even one sunburn as a child.
  • Abnormal moles or a large number of moles on your body — more than 100 as an adult, 50 if under age 20

Early Detection Can Save Your Life

Skin cancer can be found early, increasing your chances of survival. The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute recommends: ·

  • A full-body skin exam for cancer as part of your yearly physical.
  • Monthly skin self-exams.

It is extremely important to know your own pattern of moles, freckles and birthmarks. Be alert to changes in the number, size, shape or color of the spots on your skin. When doing a self-exam, follow the “ABCDE rule” for signs you should see a health care provider:

  • A (Asymmetry) — one half of a mole or spot does not match the other half.
  • B (Border) — the outside edge is irregular, ragged or scalloped, and not smooth.
  • C (Color) — the color of the mole is not the same all over. There can be shades of black, brown, white, blue or red.
  • D (Diameter) — the area is larger than an eraser on the end of a pencil (6mm), or is getting larger.
  • E (Evolving) – the mole has changed over time (within weeks or months)

Lower Your Chances of Getting Skin Cancer

You can help reduce your chances and your family’s chances of getting skin cancer by:

  • Staying in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is the brightest.
  • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat, tightly woven clothes and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Avoiding sunburn.
  • Using broad-spectrum sunscreen, year-round, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, even on cloudy days.
  • Applying two tablespoons (one ounce) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside and re-applying every 2 hours.
  • Avoiding sun lamps and tanning beds.
  • Examining your skin, head-to-toe, every month.
  • Helping your children prevent skin cancer.
  • Keeping newborns out of the sun.
  • Using sunscreen on children beginning at six months of age.
  • Avoiding the use of aerosol sunscreens on children. The Bottom Line
  • See a health care provider or dermatologist for a complete skin exam every year and discuss your chances of getting skin cancer. ·
  • Learn the “ABCDE rule” of skin cancer and perform a self-exam monthly.
  • Protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun.

If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, it is important to be evaluated and treated by melanoma and skin cancer experts. The Melanoma and Skin Cancer Multidisciplinary Team at Karmanos Cancer Institute includes a full team that only treats skin cancers, which includes surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, facial plastics and reconstructive surgeons, dermatologists, otolaryngologists, radiologists, pathologists, pharmacists, specialized nurse practitioners, dietitians, social workers, and genetic counselors. The team at Karmanos offers the latest types of therapy to fight cancer, including clinical trials and promising new treatments often exclusively available to Karmanos patients. For more information or to request an appointment, call 1-800-KARMANOS or visit karmanos.org/skincancer.