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Skin Cancer Prevention

The Skin Cancer Foundation warns that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime, and more than 3.5 million skin cancers in over 2 million people are diagnosed annually.  Furthermore, over the past three decades, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

If these statistics aren’t daunting enough, it’s proven that skin cancer can happen to absolutely anyone, even the most health-conscious among us, with chances increasing for those with prevalent skin cancer diagnoses in their family history.

The best way to limit your risk of getting skin cancer is to stay proactive by always protecting yourself from the sun, getting frequent screenings from a trusted dermatologist, and closely monitoring your skin, particularly moles, between exams.  If you notice any of the changes below immediately contact your doctor for an exam:

–  A mole that is growing, changing shape, or changing color

–  A mole that looks scaly, oozes, or bleeds

–  New dark spot on the skin that looks like a mole, but grows quickly

–  Pain, itching, or bleeding in a new spot on the skin

–  Streak (usually brown or black) underneath the fingernail or toenail

–  Bruise on the foot that does not heal

Skin cancer can often be prevented by prompt biopsy and surgical removal of moles that are transforming into one of the three types of cancerous skin tumors:

BASAL CELL CARCINOMA is the most common type of skin cancer. This type is rarely life threatening and does not spread. It can be inherited, but usually occurs in patients who have had repeated sun exposure. Patients who develop a Basal Cell cancer have a 60% chance of developing another one within five years.

SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA is a common type of skin cancer that is rarely life threatening. It is most often found in people with fair complexions. This type may develop from an Actinic (Solar) Keratosis, which is a scaly, crusty bump on sun-damaged skin. They can appear as a red bump, or may seem like an ulcer or a sore that won’t heal. They can range in size from a few millimeters to a few centimeters in diameter.

MALIGNANT MELANOMA is the least common but most serious form of skin cancer. It usually appears as a dark brown or black mole with uneven borders and irregular color, with shades of black/blue, red, or white. Melanoma most commonly occurs on the upper backs of men and women, as well as the lower legs of women. It can also develop on the face and other areas of the body. This cancer can arise from a mole that has been present for many years. Outcome is best if treated early.

Check your moles between skin exams. Melanoma often appears in an existing mole or looks like a new mole. By knowing where you have moles on your skin, you can detect melanoma when it first appears. Melanoma is most curable when treated early. If you notice any of the above warning signs, see your dermatologist immediately.

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