You likely already know that exposure to harmful UV rays, whether from the sun or tanning beds or any other source, can significantly increase your risk of skin cancer. The Clinic for Dermatology & Wellness wants to help you have a better understanding of a few important facts about skin cancer, including the different types of skin cancer and, most importantly, how you can protect your skin and reduce your risk.
Skin Cancer Facts
1. Skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer
Did you know that each year, nearly 6 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed and treated in the U.S.? It’s pretty easy to understand why skin cancer occurs more often than all other cancers combined when you consider how challenging it can be to avoid sun exposure. It wasn’t always common knowledge that you can get skin-damaging UV exposure through clouds, during winter, through car windshields, and through glass windows and doors. This is why, today, any skin expert will tell you to use SPF 30 or higher sunscreen all day, every day.
2. There are several different types of skin cancer
Not all skin cancers are created equal. You may be familiar already with the term “melanoma” but melanoma, in fact, is significantly less common than basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the single most common cancer in the United States, with 3.5 million cases each year. Most patients visit a dermatologist after discovering a new skin-colored or shiny bump, or a pimple that won’t go away. Patients often describe “easy bleeding” or say “it never heals.”
Squamous cell carcinoma is often characterized by a rough, red, scaly patch of skin that never heals, and patients may say the lesion is tender to the touch.
3. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are rarely deadly.
Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are often treated with a simple excision by your dermatologist.
For cancers with greater risk, or in a cosmetically or functionally sensitive area (such as near an eye or over the nose), Mohs micrographic surgery, available here at The Clinic in Medford, is the treatment recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology.
4. Melanoma is still a risk.
Although it is far less common than basal and squamous cell carcinomas, melanoma can be more deadly. In the past 20 years, cases of melanoma have risen sharply, particularly in women younger than 40. The average 5-year survival rate for melanoma post-detection is 93% across all stages. This means melanoma is important to catch early, as the survival rate with early detection is approximately 99%. When it goes undetected and spreads from the skin, the results can be devastating.
How To Protect Yourself and Reduce Your Risk
Skin cancer is directly and proportionally connected to cumulative sun exposure over the course of your life. Here are a few ways to protect your skin and ensure you are on top of any potential issues:
● Diligently wear sun protection every day. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that is water-resistant and protective against both UVA and UVB rays. Even with sunscreen on, stay in the shade when you’re outside and cover up with clothing, hats, and sunglasses.
● Perform regular self-examinations. Make it a habit to check your skin regularly for changes in spots, moles, and other skin irregularities. Be sure to use a mirror to look at the back of your neck, arms, legs, torso, and ears. Check the bottom of your feet and between your toes. You can use the American Academy of Dermatology’s Mole Map to help you keep track of the location and appearance of your moles.
● Schedule annual skin cancer screenings with your dermatology provider. Detecting skin cancer early is important, so annual skin checkups are vital.
● Stay informed. Knowing what to look for and understanding your risks can help you take charge of your skin health and offer peace of mind.
Learn more about protecting yourself from melanoma and other skin cancers in our related blog post.
Skin Cancer Screening
Our providers perform thorough, total-body skin exams. We also supply our patients with a wealth of information on how best to protect themselves and lower their risk for melanoma and other skin cancers. Ultimately, we want you to be aware that skin cancer is directly and proportionally connected to cumulative sun exposure over the course of your life.
The primary goal of our dermatological staff is the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. We recommend you schedule regular full-body skin exams and skin cancer screenings to ensure your skin remains healthy and cancer-free!
As part of our goal to provide the highest quality service to every patient, we are honored to welcome our new bilingual physician assistant: David Richardson, PA-C! David is fluent in English and Spanish, so he is ready to help you receive the best care while having the best possible experience.