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5 Signs of Skin Cancer

Tag Archives: skin cancer prevention

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.

Did you know that the incidence of  invasive skin cancer in the US is rising by 4%- 6% each year? Will you be among the over 68,000 Americans that will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2011, and that 1 in 58 Americans will develop melanoma over their lifetime? The Journal of Clinical Oncology (January 20, 2011 issue) recently published a study which revealed a significant reduction in the risk of invasive melanoma with regular sunscreen use.

The study randomly selected and followed a total of 1621 people between the ages of 25 and 75 years over a 14 year period. The study assigned participants to “apply daily or discretionary sunscreen to both heads and arms in combination with 30 mg beta carotene or a placebo supplement. Ten years after trial cessation, 11 new primary melanomas had been identified in the daily sunscreen group, and 22 had been identified in the discretionary group, which represented a reduction of the observed rate in those randomly assigned to daily sunscreen use.”

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