Facts About Melanoma Skin Cancer
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin is the largest organ of our body. Our skin protects everything inside. Without the incredible properties of our skin, we would not exist.
The most common form of cancer is skin cancer and 3.5 million people in the United States are affected. More than two million new cases are diagnosed each year. This is more than the combined number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. One in five Americans will have to contend with skin cancers and/or melanomas.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. This is followed by squamous cell cancer of the skin. Non melanoma skin cancers will kill 3,010 people in the Unite States this year (according to SkinCancer.org 2012).
Increasing by 800 percent in women and 400 percent in men in the last 40 years, melanoma of the skin has begun killing one person every 57 minutes. Melanoma accounts for the majority of skin cancer deaths. Exposure to the UV rays of the sun causes 86 percent of melanomas.
Just one blistering sunburn as a child can double a person's susceptibility to melanoma skin cancer. Five sunburns at any age is enough to double a person's chances of getting skin cancers and melanomas.
Indoor tanning is also a known carcinogen for skin cancers. Tanning beds have the same carcinogen risk as cigarettes, solar radiation and plutonium.
Caucasians, especially fair skinned people, are at the highest risk of skin cancers, but it is not unheard of in African-Americans and may be harder to detect in dark skinned individuals. All other races of the world are known to be affected by skin cancers.
Children are at greater risk than adults. Children should have sun protection at all times. After age 20, their risk is somewhat reduced but definitely not eliminated.
Death Rates for Melanoma Skin Cancers
Descriptions of Skin Cancers
Type of skin cancer
Actinic Keratosis (AK)
crusty or scabby growths considered to be precursors of skin cancers
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
look like open sores, red patches, shiny bumps or scars
biopsy, micro-surgery, other surgery
Dysplastic Nevi (unusual moles)
Odd looking moles, not melanomas
Have each one mapped by a dermatologist and get regular skin checkups
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
red, scaly patches in the upper layer of the epidermis, non healing scabby patches
biopsy, surgical removal is highly recommended
Look for the ABCDEs of melanoma
surgical intervention is the first treatment followed by chemotherapy, laser therapy, radiation therapy and other types of cancer treatments
What Does Melanoma Look Like?
Melanoma Warning Signs
Any suspicious mole or skin damage (that never heals) can be a skin cancer. People at higher risk for skin cancers should be checked early and often. Once a year is not too frequent. Skin cancers may be easy to see or they may be hidden, so an exam by a dermatologist is recommended.
The ABCDEs of melanoma:
- A is for asymmetry - the area has irregular borders, it's not a smooth shape
- B is for border - the edges are uneven, scalloped or notched
- C is for color - melanomas tend to be two or even three toned
- D is for diameter - compare the size to a pencil eraser (6 mm) is about the size when they are first discovered
- E is for evolving - melanomas will change over time or develop bleeding, itching or crusting
Always have skin areas checked if you are slightly suspicious. The sooner a skin cancer is detected, the sooner it can be cured.
Laying in the Sun Causes Skin Cancer!
The Sun Belt of the Unites States
How do You Get Skin Cancers?
Becoming a sun worshiper is the best way to get skin cancer. Some people are addicted to tanning beds. They are at a higher risk of developing skin cancers. Those born with fair skin and light colored eyes are more susceptible to problems with their skin. People with a lot of moles on their body are at a higher risk.
There is very little you can do to prevent skin cancers if you are in a high risk group. The best you can do is prevent the cancers from starting. The younger you start, the better your chances of success. But don't throw up your hands if you are older. Learn to deal with skin problems and prevent skin cancers.
How do You Prevent Skin Cancers?
- Stay out of the sun! The most brutal rays occur between 10 AM and 4 PM. In the 'Sun Belt' you should add an hour on each side for more safety. So if you must go outside, do so very early in the morning or late in the evening. Watch the sunrise and set, but don't picnic at noon.
- Never use a tanning bed. This is concentrated skin carcinogen in a box. How much fun is it to lie in a tanning bed anyway?
- Make it a habit to wear hats, scarves or caps when outdoors. Always wear UV protection eye wear. Wear dense fabrics to block out the sun.
- Use a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 to 50 with UVA and UVB blocking protection. Sunscreens should be used year round, not just in summer. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours if you are in and around water.
- Keep infants and young children out of the sun as much as possible. Sun damage is cumulative and if sunny activities are limited as a youngster, they will have healthier skin as they age.
- If you are at high risk for skin cancers, get a body map and do a monthly self exam. Visit your dermatologist for a yearly checkup.
© 2012 Lela