Have you noticed an area of skin that is changing colors or growing larger? Or maybe you have what appears to be a common mole but that seems to be changing over time? Damage done to the skin as a result of overexposure to the sun, environmental toxins and DNA mutations cause changes in the appearance of the skin and put you at risk for developing potentially life threatening skin cancer spots. Ignorance surrounding the condition of skin cancer has led to an unfortunate number of deaths in the United States.
Almost completely preventable and curable, skin cancer is still overlooked by many as a medical threat. In an effort to educate and spread awareness, Soderstrom Skin Institute offers free Skin Cancer Screening Clinics to help the people of Central Illinois identify and also treat potentially harmful areas of skin. Sun or actinic damage causes early changes in the skin that can forewarn the development of skin cancers, and many precancerous skin spots are found on patients during these visits.
If you have noticed an area of skin that is changing colors or morphing, or have a common mole that seems to be changing over time, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist immediately.
What is Skin Cancer?
There are many different types of skin cancer, but Basal cell carcinomas are the most common form. They are frequently seen on sun exposed areas of the skin, particularly the face. In most instances, they are completely curable.
Squamous cell carcinomas are frequently seen developing from pre-cancerous spots on the skin. These are treatable and, in many cases, preventable. Once found, they must be removed surgically and do have a small, but serious, chance of recurrence.
Malignant melanomas are the most dangerous form of skin cancers and a very serious reason Soderstrom Skin Institute hosts free skin cancer screenings. These are usually moles that are dark, black and growing with irregular borders and relentless growth patterns. The cause of malignant melanomas can be both genetic and environmental, as they are aggravated by sunlight. The best treatment for malignant melanomas is early detection and complete surgical removal. There are new experimental methods of vaccination that look promising towards treating patients who have had malignant melanomas that have spread. However, no treatment is better than early detection and surgical removal.
The prevention of skin cancer starts with self evaluation, knowing your “ABCDE’s“, and being aware of your melanoma family history. “ABCDE” is an acronym that can help you remember what to look for on your skin.
- “A” is for asymmetry; look for moles or pigmented spots where one half is unlike the other.
- “B” is for border; irregular, scalloped or poorly circumscribed borders should be checked by a dermatologist immediately.
- “C” is for color; if color is varied from one area to another, this is a reason for concern
- “D” is for diameter; while melanomas are usually greater than 6mm in diameter when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
- “E” is for evolving; if you notice a mole different from others, or which changes, itches, or bleeds, you should see a dermatologist.
It is important to avoid the hot midday sun, wear protective clothing (long sleeved lightweight shirts and blouses, wide-brimmed hats, and cover-ups on the beach), and always use sunscreens and sun blocks liberally and frequently. Prevention is always worth more than the treatment.
Free Skin Cancer Screenings
Decades of excessive sun exposure and ignorance about the cancer led to what appeared to be a serious skin cancer epidemic in the 1980’s. Dermatologists saw a flood of people with signs and symptoms that before had gone unnoticed and untreated. Coincidentally, this medical outbreak came at a time when thousands of workers had been laid off in Central Illinois. In an effort to help those with reduced or non-existent medical benefits, Soderstrom Skin Institute began free Skin Cancer Screening Clinics. Thus, free Skin Cancer Screening Clinics began as a humanitarian effort, and have continued to grow locally, as well as nationally.
More than 25,000 patients have been examined for atypical spots and changing moles at Soderstrom Clinics. Each year, Soderstrom Skin Institute sponsors more than 15 free Skin Cancer Screening Clinics in central Illinois and eastern Iowa. Screening days are completely devoted to our patients. Patients seen at each clinic enjoy complimentary refreshments, consultations, informational lectures, and a free examination of worrisome or changing spots or skin diseases.