May is Melanoma & Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month
Finally! After the harsh and gray winter months we can embrace our long lost friend: The sun. Outdoor sports, hikes and barbecues are all events to look forward to as summer approaches. Before we break out the bathing suits and grills, it’s important to remember the risks associated with sun bathing & outdoor activities.
What better time to cover such important topics than Melanoma & Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month. According to Skincancer.org each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined. UV exposure greatly increases the risk of skin cancer, such as Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma. Thankfully, there are easy ways to help prevent skin cancer so that we can enjoy summer activities without worry.
Common Types of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cells are in the lower part of the epidermis which divide to form new cells and replace the squamous cells. This is not only the most common type of skin cancer, but the most common type of cancer in humans. About 8 out of 10 skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. These cancers often develop on sun-exposed areas, especially the head and neck. At one point this type of cancer was only found in older people, but younger people are now also experiencing Basal Cell Carcinoma since spending more time in the sun. Basal Cell Carcinoma tends to grow slowly, and rarely spreads. Basal Cell Carcinoma should be removed completely, however, as if it isn’t it tends to come back in the same place on the skin. Those who have Basal Cell Cancers are likely to get new skin cancer within 5 years.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The Squamous Cells are found in the outer Epidermis and self-exfoliate as new cells form. About 2 out of 10 skin cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers often appear on sun-exposed areas of the body, and are more likely to grow into deeper layers of skin and spread to other parts of the body than basal cell cancers, though still uncommon.
Melanocytes can be found throughout the body; in the skin they are located in the bottom layer of the epidermis. They are responsible for producing melanin, pigment that colors our eyes, skin and hair. Melanoma generally occurs in the skin when a growth is formed in the melanocyte. Melanocytes can form cancerous growths called Melanomas and also non-cancerous growths called moles. Melanomas are much less common than basal and squamous cell cancers, but they are more likely to grow and spread if left untreated. These tumors can spread to nearby or distant tissue via the lymph nodes; left untreated the tumor can continue to grow and eventually cause vital organs to fail. While skin cancer when caught early can be successfully treated, the disease can be fatal if undetected or detected in later stages.
Skin Cancer Screenings at the Dermatologist
Adults are advised to visit a Dermatologist once a year for a skin cancer screening. Dermatologist screenings are incredibly useful in the prevention of skin cancer, and are so easy!
During a skin cancer screening, the Doctor will examine your skin and check every spot, rash, or variation. Moles are examined under a hand-held microscope and if any require testing, your Doctor will let you know. To test any suspicious spot, the Doctor will apply local anesthetic and take a biopsy or remove most of the mole. The biopsy or mole is sent to a lab for testing. Depending on the results, the Doctor may schedule another appointment for you to have a broader area of skin around and under the pre-cancerous or cancerous spot removed. This is also done with local anesthesia and usually in the same Doctor’s office. In most cases, most skin cancers are cured once they are removed. Your Doctor will probably like for you to visit again in 6 to 12 months for another checkup.
Dermatologist checkups are also a great chance to bring up any other concerns regarding your hair, skin, or nails. Dermatologists offer many treatment options including cosmetic procedures such as Microdermabrasion, IPL for Hair Removal and Pigmentation, Oxygen Facials and more.
Not all skin cancers can be prevented, but there are some best practices for reducing your risk of getting melanoma and other forms of skin cancer:
- Just say NO to indoor or outdoor tanning!
- Apply sunscreen to the face, neck and decollete everyday year round. As a bonus, sunscreen also helps prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging!
- Try to stay out of the sun between 10am and 2pm in the summer, and especially on days when the UV Index is high.
- If you have to be in the hot summer sun, wear a hat and protective clothing whenever possible.
- Apply and re-apply sunscreen to all exposed skin every 1.5 to 2 hours while in the sun, especially when swimming or sweating.
Sunscreen Is So Important – Chemical Sunscreen vs. Physical Sunscreen
Chemical sunscreens protect the skin by absorbing UV rays from sunlight and converting them into heat energy. While many chemical sunscreen ingredients, including Oxybenzone, Octinoxate , Homosalate Octisalate, and Avobenzone effectively filter UV rays, some penetrate the skin and reach living tissue. They may disrupt the hormone system and possibly affect the reproductive and thyroid systems. Through maternal exposure, the possibility of altered reproductive development in a growing fetus is possible. Differing rates of skin allergies also exist with chemical sunscreens.
Physical sunscreens deflect the sunlight before they are absorbed by the skin. The active ingredients in our daily eclipse oil-free sunscreen include Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, neither of which penetrate the skin nor disrupt hormones and no skin allergies. Their texture has been so improved that there is no worry of the paste-y white noses that the lifeguards used to sport.
Finding the one that feels (and smells the best) to you is the one to go with, since the very BEST sunscreen is the one you will actually use.
Still need that ever beloved golden glow to your skin? Try some of the great sunless tanners available for home use and at many spas and salons.
So this May, please be aware of the importance of skin cancer detection & prevention. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in humans, but in most cases it is easy to prevent and detect, we all just need to be a little more aware.
In the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Aren’t you worth it?
Published by DermaMed Solutions