With summer right around the corner, it is time to review the topic of skin cancer and how to protect yourself from getting this illness, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States. And, while the most dangerous of three times of skin cancers is comparatively rare, it is an illness that can kill you. This makes it all the more tragic given the point that early treatment is often effective. In addition, adequate protection measures are simple: Stay out of the hot sun or wear the right type of clothes and sun-blocking cream. This can make all the difference.
There are three types of skin cancer. They are:
- Basal cell
- Squamous cell carcinomas
- Melanoma – the most lethal of the three.
Anyone can get skin cancer. However, depending on your skin color, whether or not you are prone to getting moles, and eye color, among other factors, you could be at more risk than others. Certainly, having had skin cancer in the past puts you in a high-risk group. In addition, people more prone to skin cancer, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention are people with:
- Lighter skin color
- Skin that burns easily in the sun. Included in this: people who get freckles in the summer sun
- Those with blue or green eyes
- Those with red or blond hair
- People with many moles of a certain type
- Someone from a family that has members who have had skin cancer
Exposure to the Sun
While North Americans generally associate tan skin with good health, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention would like to disagree with you. “A tan is your skin’s response to injury,” says the CDC, noting that a tan is a reaction to being burned by the sun’s rays. “Any change in skin color after UV exposure … is a sign of injury, not health,” the agency says.
Staying away from long exposure to Ultraviolet rays from the sun can reduce your risk of any of the three skin cancer types. Not only that, but UV is partly responsible for both cataracts and eye cancer.
Since the sun is the biggest known contributing factor for contracting skin cancer, the best prevention is protection from the sun. However, that’s more easily said than done, as there is nothing quite as delightful as enjoying the outdoors on a warm summer day.
However, you can have your cake and eat it too, so long as you take a few sensible precautions. These include staying out of the midday sun. Stay in the shade. Wear clothing that shields you from the sun’s rays. Where a hat, specifically on that will put your neck and face in the shade. Wear sunglasses that can block UVA and AVB. And use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 or higher.
Observing changes in the skin, especially in moles or any other discoloration is the primary way to diagnose skin cancer, although laboratory tests will prove what the doctor observes. Beyond that, there are certain criteria that doctors use to evaluate skin discolorations. These include the size and shape of the skin discoloration, the pattern of the color, the size of the discoloration and whether or not the spot is growing or changing in any fashion.
There are several options for treating a skin cancer spot. These should be discussed with your doctor. The first order of business, however, is to remove the cancer growth. This can be done several ways, often a same-day procedure at the doctor’s office.
- Mohs surgery – removing the cancerous area layer by layer
- Excisional surgery – taking off the lesion
- Freezing – also known as cryosurgery
- Radiation therapy – targeted radiation to kills the cancer cells
- Photodynamic therapy
Make a Call
Do you see unusual growths or discoloration on your skin? For primary care, call Pacific Medical Care in San Diego at 619-333-8114 for an appointment.