May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Skin Cancer includes
- Basal Cell Carcinoma
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The National Cancer Institute estimates there will be more than 1,000,000 newly diagnosed cases of non melanoma skin cancers in the U.S. in 2008 and less than 1,000 deaths.
Defining the other skin cancers:
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer and most easily treated and begins in the basal level of the skin or epidermis. This cancer grows slowly and rarely spreads, unless left untreated. It is not uncommon for it to recur in the same spot. Per the Mayo Clinic, it usually appears this way:
- pearly or waxy bump on your face, ears or neck
- A flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion on your chest or back
Squamous Cell Carcinoma occurs upper level of the epidermis and may spread to the fatty tissue and to the lymph nodes if left untreated. The first stage of squamous cell carcinoma may be a precancerous lesion called actinic keratosis. Per The May Clinic it usually appears this way:
- A firm, red nodule on your face, lips, ears, neck, hands or arms
- A flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface on your face, ears, neck, hands or arms
Risk Factors for non Melanoma Skin Cancer:
- UV light exposure-natural and artificial and a history of severe sunburns
- Fair Skin-occurs more often in people with fair skin, freckles and light hair
- Immune Suppression-a weakened immune system due to other factors
- Sex-Men have a higher incidence
- History of skin cancer
- Chemicals-exposure to arsenic, tar, coal, and paraffin
- Exposure to radiation
- HPV infection
- History of skin diseases that impair the ability of the skin to repair or increases risks of sunburn
- Rare condition called Basal Cell Nevus Syndrome
Prevention includes knowing your UV index and regulation of sun exposure, using sunscreen, protective clothing and avoiding tanning beds, and chemicals related to risk.
The Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA) provides an easy website, as part of their SunWise Program to determine the UV index for your area of the U.S. so you can take preventative measures to regulate your exposure.
Cancer Research UK, provides links to the UV index for different parts of the UK and Europe.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Early detection is the key and this involves regular physical exams to assess your skin. Diagnosis will determine if skin cancer is local or metastasized and will stage the cancer. This is done by biopsy.
Treatment options may include:
- chemotherapy-may include a topical cream
- cryosurgery-freezing the cells and removing them
- excision-cutting out the cancer
- laser therapy-utilizing a beam of light to vaporize the cancer cells.
- curettage and electrodesiccation-scraping cancer cells with a blade and using a needle
- Mohs surgery-done by a specialist usually for recurring or larger skin cancer. A doctor removes the cancer cells layer by layer
The Skin Cancer Connection . com offers an informative article on topical skin cancer treatments.
Skin Cancer Basics from M.D. Anderson
May Skin Cancer Events:
As part of May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and Olay has teamed up to offer free screenings with a dermatologic surgeon for you and a friend. The initiative, Skin Cancer Takes Friends can be seen in magazine ads (such as MORE magazine), and features actress Marcia Cross. For more details see the website.
The Skin Cancer Foundation Road to a Healthy Skin Tour may be in your neighborhood soon. The customized Winnebago starts off at the Today Show in NYC on May 2 and then heads across the U.S. giving free skin exams provided by local board certified dermatologists. The tour is sponsored by Aveeno, Rite Aid and Columbia Sportswear. Check the site to see the tour dates and locations.