July is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Did you know that skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It happens when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells trigger mutations that lead the cells to multiply quickly and form malignant tumors.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are a few different types of skin cancer. The non-melanoma types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma (ACS). They are the most common forms of skin cancer and can easily be treated if they are caught early. There are more than 3.5 million basal and squamous cell cases diagnosed each year. Melanoma is the least common, but the most deadly form of skin cancer. It accounts for about 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths (FOH). It usually forms in a mole and can almost always be cured if caught in the early stages. Melanoma will account for more than 76,600 cases of skin cancer in 2013 (ACS).

Signs and Symptoms

It is important to look out for the signs and symptoms of skin cancer. It can be found early and both doctors and patients play important roles in finding it. If you see any of these signs tell your doctor (ACS).

• Any change on the skin, especially in the size and color of a mole or other darkly pigmented growth or spot or a new growth (even if it has no color)

• Scaliness, oozing, bleeding or change in the appearance of a bump or nodule

• The spread of pigmentation beyond its border such as dark coloring past the edge of a mole or mark

• A change in sensation, itchiness, tenderness, or pain

What are the Risk Factors? 

The risk factors for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers are (ACS):

• Pale skin (easily sunburned, doesn’t tan much or at all, natural red or blond hair)

• Multiple or atypical moles

• Family history

• Unprotected or over exposure to ultraviolet radiation

• Severe sunburns in the past

• Occupational exposures to coal tar, creosote, arsenic compounds or radium

Prevention

• Seek the shade. Avoid being out in the sun especially between 10 am and 4 pm.

• Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.

• Cover up with tightly woven fabric clothing, UVA/UVB blocking sunglasses and wide brim hats.

• Use a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen SPF 30 or higher. Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply every 2 hours or immediately after sweating or swimming.

• Examine your skin head to toe once a month. 

Visit http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/early-detection/step-by-step-self-examination for step-by-step self-examination tips.