May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Because May is skin cancer awareness month, it’s time to learn more about this disease. Skin cancer occurs when skills cells grow abnormally, which is usually caused by sun exposure. Skin cancer can develop on any part of the body but is more likely to appear on the scalp, neck, chest, face, arms and legs.

There are certain factors that can increase your chances of developing skin cancer including excessive sun exposure, family history of skin cancer, fair skin, history of sunburns and moles. It is important to get checkups regularly to find out if you have skin cancer.

Skin cancer is diagnosed through a skin biopsy or skin examination by your doctor. With a skin biopsy, a sample of an odd looking mole is tested to see if cancer cells exist. The three types of skin cancer include melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Melanoma is considered the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

If skin cancer is found, you will have to get treatment right away to get rid of it. There are several different treatment options available including freezing, excisional surgery, laser therapy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy and biological therapy. The best treatment option for you depends on the size, type and location of the skin lesion.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from the sun. It is best to completely stay out of the sun in the early afternoon when ultraviolet rays are the harshest. When you do go out in the sun, make sure to wear sunscreen. Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen every couple of hours if you plan on being outside for awhile. You can also wear protective clothing to protect your skin like dark clothes, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses. Also, stay away from tanning beds. Even though you are in them for a short period of time, they are just as dangerous for your skin.

Skin Cancer

More people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year than any other cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with 3.5 million skin cancers each year. Skin cancer develops in the epidermis due to overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Sunlight and tanning beds are sources of ultraviolet radiation that are known to cause skin cancer.

The face, scalp, chest, and arms, along with other areas of skin frequently exposed to the sun, are affected most often. However, skin cancer can also affect areas often hidden from exposure such as palms and between toes.

Risk factors besides overexposure to sunlight and tanning beds include having fair skin, a family history of skin cancer and a history of sunburns. Abnormal or multiple moles may indicate an increased risk for skin cancer.

There are three types of skin cancer including, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell are most often diagnosed and easily treatable if detected in early stages of the disease. Melanoma accounts for nearly 75 percent of all skin cancer deaths.

Basal cell carcinoma is typically found on the face or scalp and other areas often exposed to excessive sunlight. Signs include nodules or bumps that appear waxy or pearly, or a scar-like lesion, usually brown.

Squamous cell carcinoma also develops in areas with direct exposure to sunlight. A hard red bump or flat lesion with a crusty growth may indicate squamous cell.

Melanoma occurs in areas of the body exposed to sunlight in addition to areas usually protected from exposure. Men are more prone to developing melanoma on the head and trunk, while women are most often affected on the lower legs. People with darker complexions may develop cancer underneath nails or even on the soles of feet.

Treatment may include freezing small lesions and precancerous growths with liquid nitrogen. Larger areas of skin cancer are typically surgically removed. Surgical treatments may include Mohs surgery and excisional surgery. Laser therapy, radiation therapy and biological therapy may also be employed to remove cancerous tissue.