Each year, skin cancer affects millions of people all over the world. Many of these cancers are preventable by maintaining healthy skin. Skin is a large part of our bodily defense, providing a shield between the outside and inside of the body. The skin is a delicate organ requiring the utmost care. The more damage to our skin, the higher the risk of developing skin cancer. Examples include sun exposure, tanning salons, and aging. It is important to inspect your skin for changes in moles, warts, and sun damage. If you have fair skin, freckles, red-hair, do not wear sunscreen, or have a family history of skin cancer you are at higher risk.
What is Skin Cancer?
When enough skin damage accumulates, some types of skin cells start to grow out of control and develop into lesions. These lesions may be cancerous and spread to other organs. Without treatment, skin cancer can result in death. Early detection is the first line of defense in prevention. There are two types of Skin Cancers to be aware of: Melanoma and Non-melanoma. Non-melanomas are classified as Basal Cell Carcinomas or Squamous Cell Carcinomas.
What should I look for?
A pearly and raised lesion of the skin could be a Basal Cell Carcinoma, typically found on the head and neck area. Most skin cancers turn out to be skin lesions with little chance of spreading to other areas of the body and can be easily removed by a primary care physician.
A dry, red or skin colored nodule on the skin can be checked by the family physician for Squamous Cell Carcinoma, cancer of the flat cells of the skin. Depending on the location of the lesion, this type of cancer is more likely to spread to other areas of the body. It is important to identify Squamous Cell Carcinoma at an early stage so that the appropriate treatment may ensure a successful outcome.
Melanoma, cancer of cells providing color to skin, is rare but very aggressive. Something that looks like a mole can rapidly lead to death. Changes in the size, color, or shape of a mole must be brought to the attention of your family physician. The number of cases with Melanoma is on the rise with over 50,000 cases reported in 2006. White males are at the highest risk for melanoma.
What should I do if something suspicious is found?
If you notice any changes on your skin, be sure to consult your family doctor. Changes to your skin may not necessarily be cancer. After evaluating the lesion, we may decide to perform a biopsy for more accurate diagnosis.
What treatment options do I have?
Treatment may vary depending on size, depth, type, and location of the lesion. The ultimate goal is to remove the mass and any other remnants of abnormal cells in the body. Treatment can range from a simple biopsy to various surgical procedures. We will discuss the existing option with you.
How can I prevent it?
Skin cancer is preventable by protecting yourself from UV light and by frequently checking your skin. Avoid tanning salons and strong sunrays between late morning and early evening. Sunscreen is recommended all year around, including winter months. Consult your family physician for more information. We can check your skin periodically.
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