Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in mankind? In fact, it’s more common than all other cancers combined in the United States. Unlike most other cancers, its incidence is rising year after year. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risks of developing a disfiguring or potentially deadly skin cancer.
Skin cancer is strongly associated with past sunburns, tanning bed use and chronic sun damage. Those with fair skin are especially prone to skin cancer; and although natural pigment (e.i., not from a “tan”) in the skin has a protective effect, those with darker skin types can also get skin cancers.
Sun and tanning bed avoidance is the best way to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Sun is generally most harmful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing sun-protective clothing (such as long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses) and a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher that is re-applied every two hours when you’re outside.
3 Common Types of Skin Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, representing about 80% of skin cancers. BCC is usually a shiny pink lesion that may bleed or ulcerate; or a white scar-like lesion. BCC rarely spreads into the body, but it can be locally destructive and disfiguring, so early treatment is still provides the best outcomes. Mohs Micrographic Surgery provides the highest cure rates available and typically creates the smallest surgical scars possible for BCC. Other treatments include excisions, destructions, topical treatments, radiation, and oral chemotherapy, depending on the subtype and location of the BCC.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer, representing about 6% of skin cancers. SCC is often a scaly, raised pink-red lesion that may ulcerate or bleed. SCCs can spread into the body, but metastasis is rare if they are treated early. SCCs that are large, ignored, found on the head and neck, or present in those with a suppressed immune system carry a higher risk of spreading. Mohs Micrographic Surgery provides the highest cure rates available and typically creates the smallest surgical scars possible for SCC, too. Other treatments include excisions, destructions, topical treatments, radiation, and rarely chemotherapy (for metastatic disease), depending on the subtype and location of the SCC.
Melanoma is the least common type of “the big 3” skin cancers, but it also the deadliest. Melanoma represents about 4% of skin cancers, but its incidence is on the rise, especially in young adults and even teenagers. The Skin Cancer Foundation cites that sustaining five or more sunburns in youth increases the lifetime risk of melanoma by 80%. General guidelines to identify melanomas rely on the acronym ABCDE – look for moles that have Asymmetry, irregular Borders, Colors that are dark or multiple, Diameter bigger than a pencil eraser, and Evolving (changing, itching, bleeding). The main treatment for melanoma is surgery.
If you want to learn more about melanoma and it’s symptoms, here’s a video I did with more information:
For Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, ProMedica is sponsoring free skin cancer screenings:
- Tuesday, May 12, 3:30 – 6 p.m. in Monroe, Mich.
- Thursday, May 27, 8 a.m. – noon in Toledo, Ohio.
You can find more free skin cancer screenings on ProMedica’s website.
Dermatologists are experts in skin cancers and fortunately the majority of skin cancers can be managed safely, effectively and comfortably in a dermatologist’s office with local anesthesia. To find a dermatologist, please visit the American Academy of Dermatology’s website.
Matthew Molenda, MD, FAAD, is a ProMedica Physician specializing in dermatology and dermatologic surgery. Prior to moving back to his hometown, Toledo, he completed his dermatology residency training at The Ohio State University, and pursued a fellowship in advanced surgical training at the Cleveland Clinic Dermatology and Plastic Surgery Institute. He has special interests in skin cancer, skin surgery, cosmetic surgery, lasers, injectable cosmetics, sun damage, and acne management.