Happy New Year! This blog is a friendly reminder to schedule your skin cancer screening! Why? Skin Cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed today. In fact, in the United States, skin cancer makes up over 50% of all new cancers. Another important fact is that anyone can get skin cancer! The importance of annual screenings and early detection can’t be overstated. Notably, First Lady Jill Biden was in the news for having Mohs surgery to remove a basal cell carcinoma (BCC) found during her routine skin cancer screening.1
Dr. Rebecca Baxt, Medical Director of BAXT CosMedical® explains, “basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer in humans, and while it rarely spreads, it can be locally destructive and disfiguring so best to catch it early.” Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are often found on skin that has been exposed to the sun (face, neck, and arms), though other areas of the body can also be affected. Both Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are quite common and can be treated.
Who Is At Risk For Skin Cancer?
While it is true that everyone is at risk for developing skin cancer, some people are at a higher risk. The common three risk factors that increase your risk for developing melanoma include:
- Heredity – family history.
- Ultraviolet (UVA/UVB) light exposure – skin exposed to sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer and also the easiest to prevent.
- Fair colored or light skin tone – individuals with fair colored skin have a higher risk BUT all people are advised to protect their skin with sunblock and sunscreen.
Know your risk and take the necessary precautions including, knowing your family history, limiting exposure to UV rays, applying and re-applying a high quality sunscreen (SPF 30 or above), wearing a hat, and scheduling an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.
What Are The Other Types Of Skin Cancer?
Squamous cell carcinoma is also a very common skin cancer that can be locally aggressive, but also spread to other areas, and while that is rare it is best to catch it early. Then there is malignant melanoma, which is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and increasing in incidence, and while it very often grows slowly, and can be curable if you catch it early, it can spread to distant organs and cause death.
There have been considerable advances in the treatment for melanomas in recent years and many people with severe disease are cured, but it’s always best to catch it early when it is easily curable.
What Preventative Measures Can You Take?
Seeing your dermatologist once a year for a checkup is especially important because skin cancer, if caught early, can be cured. The 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99% when detected early. However, if caught too late, it can be deadly. In fact, more than two people die of skin cancer in the United States every hour!
Dr. Baxt recommends that individuals look at their skin for signs of skin cancer. Remember the ABCDEs of melanoma:
|A||Anything that looks asymmetric (if you cut in half, the two sides do not look the same)|
|B||It has border irregularities (benign moles usually have a round border)|
|C||It has color variations (red, white, blue, black, and various shades of brown)|
|D||If the diameter is bigger than a standard pencil eraser, it should be checked. Just remember that skin cancer can be tiny also.|
|E||It is evolving, which is the most important criteria for home skin evaluation, that a mole or your skin is changing in any way, size, shape, color, bleeding, itching, crusting or uncomfortable|
Any of these are indicators that you need to seek medical attention and see your board certified dermatologist!