What You Should Know About Skin Cancer Skin Cancer Skin cancer, the most common of all cancers, is easily curable when detected early and treated promptly. Skin cancer can often be easily prevented by limiting your exposure to the sun’s harmful rays and protecting your skin.
Risk Factors If you sunburn easily and/or have fair skin with red or blond hair, you are more likely to get skin cancer. The amount of time you spend in the sun also affects your skin cancer risk. A fair-skinned person who wears protective clothing, uses a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and stays out of the sun when its rays are strongest, will lower their risk of getting skin cancer. While it is less common for people with deep brown or black skin to get skin cancer, they can develop some forms. In addition to limiting exposure to UV rays, you can reduce your risk by protecting your skin whenever in the sun.
Prevention • • • • • •
Limit direct sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Cover up! Wear a hat and clothing to protect yourself from the sun. Use sunscreen. A SPF rating of 15 or higher is best. Apply sunscreen at least an hour before going into the sun and again after swimming or perspiring. Don’t use indoor sunlamps, tanning beds or tanning pills. Wear sunglasses to protect eyes and the sensitive skin around them.
Three Major Types Basal Cell Cancer is the most-common kind of skin cancer. Slow-growing, it usually begins as a small, shiny, pearly bump on the head, neck, legs or hands. It is highly unusual for basal cell cancer to spread to other parts of the body, but it can continue to grow, reaching deeper tissue and destroying it. Squamous Cell Cancer may start as a bump or red patch on the lips, face, neck, ears or hands. Unlike basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer is more likely to invade tissue beneath the skin and spread to other parts of the body. Malignant Melanoma is the least-common but most-serious form of skin cancer. It may start in or near a mole and continue to grow, with irregular colors and borders. In 2007, it is estimated that approximately 62,190 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma and an estimated 7,910 will die from this type of skin cancer. But there’s good news: if detected early and treated before it spreads too far, melanoma can be curable.
Screening Guidelines The American Cancer Society recommends a cancer-related check-up, including skin examination, every three years between the ages of 20-40 and annually for those 40 and older.
Remember ... • • • •
You can get burned on a cloudy day. The sun’s rays can reach down into three feet of water. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Time spent in the sun adds up and increases your risk of skin cancer.
ABCD’s of Melanoma Use the ABDC Rule to help you determine if a mole or spot could be melanoma. If you notice any of the following signs, you should contact your doctor immediately. A: Asymmetry – one half of the mole or spot does not match the other half. B: Border Irregularity – the edges are ragged, notched or blurred. C: Color – the color may have different shades, often brown or black, sometimes with patches of red, white or blue. D: Diameter – if the mole is bigger than a pencil eraser (6 millimeters). Any sudden or progressive increase in size should be of particular concern. 800/ACS-2345 www.cancer.org
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