April 25th, 2015 by Soderstrom Skin Institute
Almost completely preventable and curable, skin cancer is still overlooked by many as a medical threat. And yet, this year alone, over 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed and over 9,000 of these cases will be fatal. (American Academy of Dermatology)
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is a mutation that occurs in the DNA of skin cells. These mutations cause the cells to grow out of control and form a mass of cancer cells.
Skin cancer begins in your skin’s top layer — the epidermis. The epidermis is a thin layer that provides a protective cover of skin cells that your body continually sheds. The epidermis contains three main types of cells:
Squamous cells lie just below the outer surface and function as the skin’s inner lining. Basal cells, which produce new skin cells, sit beneath the squamous cells. Melanocytes — which produce melanin, the pigment that gives skin its normal color — are located in the lower part of your epidermis.
Melanocytes produce more melanin when you’re in the sun to help protect the deeper layers of your skin.
What are the risk factors and causes?
- Fair skin, especially blond or red hair and blue, green, or gray eyes.
- History of bad sunburns, especially blistering sunburns.
- Skin that burns or freckles rather than tans.
- 50 or more moles.
- Moles called “atypical nevi” or “dysplastic nevi.”
- Blood relative with a history of skin cancer.
How can skin cancer be prevented?
- seek the shade, especially between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Do not let your skin burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
- Use cover up with clothing, wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher
- For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Use sunscreens on babies over six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See your dermatologist every year for a complete skin exam.
Early detection can save your life.
There is a 98% survival rate for people with melanoma that is detected and treated prior to spreading to the lymph nodes. (American Academy of Dermatology)
Know your ABCDE’s and family melanoma history.
“A” is for asymmetry; look for moles or spots where one half is unlike the other.
“B” is for border; irregular, scalloped or poorly circumscribed borders
“C” is for color; if color is varied from one area to another
“D” is for diameter; larger than 6mm (width of pencil eraser)
“E” is for evolving; any changes, itching, stinging, bleeding, etc.
If you have noticed any of these danger signs, contact your dermatologist.
To diagnose skin cancer, a dermatologist looks at the skin and carefully examines growths, moles, and dry patches.
If the physician finds something that resembles skin cancer, then part or all of the suspicious area will be removed. The removed skin will be sent to a lab. Your dermatologist may call this a biopsy. Skin cancer cannot be diagnosed without a biopsy and a dermatopathology confirmation.
There are many treatments for skin cancer. A dermatologist selects treatment after considering the following:
- Type of skin cancer.
- Where the skin cancer appears on the body.
- Whether the skin cancer is aggressive.
- Stage of the cancer (how deeply the skin cancer has grown and whether it has spread).
When surgically treating skin cancer, the goal is to remove all of the cancer. When the cancer has not spread, this is often possible. To remove skin cancer, the following surgical treatment may be used:
Excision: To perform this, the dermatologist numbs the skin and then surgically cuts out the skin cancer and a small amount of normal-looking skin. This normal-looking skin is called a margin. There are different types of excision. Most excisions can be performed in a dermatologist’s office.
Mohs Surgery: A dermatologist who has completed additional medical training in Mohs surgery performs this procedure. Once a dermatologist completes this training, the dermatologist is called a Mohs surgeon.
Mohs surgery begins with the surgeon removing the visible part of the skin cancer. Because cancer cells are not visible to the naked eye, the surgeon also removes some skin that looks normal but may contain cancer cells. The goal is to save as much healthy skin as possible.
This part of the surgery is performed one layer at a time. After removing a layer of skin, it is prepared so the surgeon can examine it under a microscope and look for cancer cells.
This process continues until the layers are free from cancer cells.
2013 SKIN CANCER FACTS
-3.5 MILLION NEW CASES OF SKIN CANCER
-76,000 CASES OF MELANOMA – THE DEADLIEST FORM
-9,000 OF THESE CASES WERE FATAL (ONE PERSON DIES PER HOUR).
-PEOPLE UNDER 35 YEARS OLD THAT USE TANNING BEDS INCREASE THEIR RISK OF MELANOMA BY 75%.
-From 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800% among young women and 400% among young men.
SOURCES: AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY, AMERICAN ACADEMY OF DERMATOLOGY, SKIN CANCER FOUNDATION, MAYO CLINIC, INTERNATIONAL AGENCY FOR RESEARCH OF CANCER
Soderstrom Skin Institute is proud to be celebrating 40 years in Central Illinois! For additional information on sun safety and skin cancer, contact us toll free at 888.970.7546. To schedule an appointment with Board Certified Dermatologist Carl W. Soderstrom, MD at our Peoria office, please call 309.674.7546 For more information visit SoderstromSkinInstitute.com.