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5 Signs of Skin Cancer

5 Signs of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It’s very likely that you or someone in your family will develop skin cancer as one in five Americans will get this in the course of their life. Some forms can be life threatening. But if skin cancer is spotted early on it can often be cured before it spreads to other parts of the body. 

There are three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. BCC and SCC are the most common forms, and rarely spread.

Melanoma develops from melanocytes, the cells that produce the skin pigment that determines our skin color. Even though it accounts for less than 5 percent of skin cancers, melanoma is the cause of most skin cancer deaths.

ABCDE Method

It is valuable to know the difference between melanoma and harmless moles. Most moles are fine unless they change in size, shape or color. When looking at a mole or skin pigment spots, most doctors recommend the ABCDE method to help determine if it’s melanoma.

A is for Asymmetry

Make sure if the mole was cut in half it would be a mirror image.

B is for Border

If there is an irregular or undefined border it could be a risk.

C is for Coloration

It should not vary in shade, but be a solid color—different shades of brown, blue, red, white and black is a warning sign.

D is for Diameter

The mole or pigment spot should be smaller than the size of a pencil’s eraser. Melanoma is typically greater than a quarter inch across, but it can be smaller.

E is for Evolution

If the mole or spot changes in size, shape or color over time then a doctor should be contacted.

Causes of Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is over-exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It develops mainly on areas of sun-exposed skin: most often on the face, chest, neck, arms as well as women’s lower legs and men’s backs. But it can also form in surprising areas— palms, beneath fingernails, spaces between toes, under toenails and genital areas.

Other risk factors include a fair complexion, history of sunburns as a child, multiple moles, atypical moles and a family history of skin cancer. Older adults are at a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Melanoma is the most common cancer for 20-29 year-olds.

Dangerous Fungi and Bacteria Found in Unlikely Places

Washing your hands frequently is usually enough to ward off harmful bacteria and prevent dangerous infections. However, several studies are finding that dangerous bacteria and fungi can grow in unexpected places, like a kitchen sink or on an unused paper towel.

Recently, researchers from Penn State took swabs from 500 sinks in eight states and analyzed the bacteria and fungus in the samples. The fungus fusarium, which has caused dangerous infections, was found in 66 percent of the sinks sampled. Though some of the fusarium strains found are not harmful to humans, about 70 percent of the fusarium found is associated with human infections. The fungus is particularly dangerous because it is resistant to anti-fungal medicines, making the infections especially hard to treat.

Additionally, a separate study published in the American Journal of Infection Control found that unused paper towels from public bathrooms frequently carry bacteria, particularly if they’re made from recycled material. The bacteria the researchers found have caused food poisoning and infection in the past. The study concluded that individuals with weakened immune systems should avoid paper towels in public restrooms and use air dryers when available.

Popular Sinus Treatment Could Prove Fatal

In central Texas, allergies and colds are more common this time of year and neti pots have become increasingly popular for treating sinus-related symptoms. However, two recent deaths in Louisiana due to primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) have led some to call the neti pot’s safety into question.

The organism in question, Naegleria fowleri is usually present in stagnant freshwater lakes or temporary pools but can also be found in tap water. The amoeba attaches itself to the olfactory nerve following insufflation and quickly multiplies. Though exceptionally rare, the infection is fatal in 97 percent of cases.

The amoeba that killed the two individuals in Louisiana came from tap water and Louisiana health officials are now evaluating the safety of neti pots. In statements regarding the deaths, authorities claimed that using distilled or boiled, cooled water should be sufficient to prevent infection. They also advised that after use, the neti pot should be washed and air-dried to prevent bacteria growth.

Though no Texans have died from using a neti pot, the amoeba responsible has been found in some Texas water sources. Drinking the amoeba is harmless but if you do plan to use a neti pot we recommend boiling the water for 20 minutes before use. Make sure the water has cooled down before use to avoid burns.

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Austin, TX 78703
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