Skin cancer is a growing problem. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. (American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2015.http://www.cancer.org/
I know a lot of women who wouldn’t think of not getting their yearly mammogram and men that get their PSA levels checked each year. And, as soon as you turn 50, every doctor is lecturing you to get a colonoscopy. One thing I don’t hear many people talking about though is getting a yearly skin scan. It’s easy and painless and can save your life. A Dermatologist will look over your entire body, chart what is on it and keep track of any changes or new lesions from year to year. You should also be doing a self-exam on a monthly basis. Check out www.skincancer.org for a detailed step-by-step self-examination.
Catching skin cancer early is important because when caught early, it is almost always curable and the treatment is usually less invasive. This has been on my mind quite a bit lately because of a phone call I received. It was a client thanking me for pointing out a suspicious spot on her face and urging her to see a Dermatologist. The spot was just a scaly spot on her nose that she thought was dry skin. It turned out to be a basal cell carcinoma that was caught early and the doctor was able to burn it off. If she would have waited even a couple of weeks he told her he would probably have had to cut it out. While a knowledgeable Esthetician will point out suspicious spots and refer you to a Dermatologist, this is not an article about relying on your Esthetician for your skin cancer examinations – we can’t diagnose and no one other than a doctor should be telling you not to worry about a lesion on your face or body. This article is about getting everyone to take skin cancer seriously and be proactive in their skin health.
Everyone should keep an eye on their skin, but there are certain people who are prone to developing skin cancer and should be extra cautious
- Lighter skin, hair and eyes – blondes, redheads, blue and green eyes
- Weakened immune systems
- Family history of skin cancer
- Had a lot of sun exposure – farmers, drivers, outdoor enthusiasts
- Live closer to the equator
- Tanning bed users – tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors.
Know the ABCDE’s of skin cancer.
- A – Asymmetry – If you draw a line through a mole, the two halves should match. If not, it’s a warning sign
- B – Border – A benign lesion has smooth borders
- C – Color – Moles should be one even color. If not, it’s a warning sign
- D – Diameter – A mole larger than a pencil eraser should be examined
- E – Evolving – Be on the alert if a skin lesion is changing (shape, size, color, etc.)
These are guidelines. If anything is suspicious looking to you, don’t hesitate to have it checked. It’s much better to be safe than sorry. As in my example above, my client just thought she had a patch of dry skin. I have seen a lot of clients who have come to me hoping to clear up patches of dry skin and it turned out to be a pre-cancerous or cancerous lesion. Dry patches that look scaly or don’t clear up with the correct moisturizer need to be looked at by a Dermatologist. It could be something as simple as dermatitis or it could be cancer.
Do your part in protecting against skin cancer
- Make sunscreen a daily routine and reapply if in the sun
- Wear protective clothing – sunglasses, hats
- Stay out of tanning beds
- A diet high in antioxidants can reduce the risk of cancer
- Do self-exams and if anything looks suspicious see a Dermatologist