A startling one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancer accounts for approximately 80% of cancers in the United States.
Basal Cell Skin Cancer:
Basal cell carcinomas are the most common form of skin cancer and something that we see on a daily basis. Over 500,000 new basal cell cancers are diagnosed each year. Basal cell cancer is related to cumulative sun exposure over a lifetime. Most can be prevented with adequate sun protection, treating early precancerous lesions and screening for abnormal moles. These skin cancers are not life threatening and most can be treated easily in the clinic with topical Aldara or superficial scraping (curettage) but it’s important to catch them early. For skin cancers which have recurred or which occur in particularly dangerous areas of the face, Mohs micrographic surgery is used.
Squamous Cell Skin cancer:
Squamous cell skin cancer is the second most common skin cancer following basal cell skin cancer. It occurs on sun-exposed areas of the skin but commonly involves the top of the ears, lip, top of the hands and lower legs in women. Variations of squamous cell skin cancer are keratoacanthoma and Bowen's disease. Pre-cancers such as actinic keratoses may evolve in time into squamous cell cancers. These cancers are caused by chronic exposure to ultraviolet light. If left untreated, these cancers can enlarge and spread and can be life-threatening. They are characterized by raised, firm, crusted lesions which may bleed or become painful. Treatment may include scraping (curettage) or surgical excision. For squamous cell skin cancers in important areas of the face and hands, Mohs micrographic surgery is performed.
Melanoma is the potentially deadly form of skin cancer—it is the number one form of cancer in young adults aged 25-29. Melanomas can be extremely dangerous, and it is critical to catch them early. The degree of danger is directly related to how deep the melanoma has grown at the time of diagnosis and removal. They may occur at any age and are characterized by larger size and irregular surface and border. Patients who have had a melanoma or a family history of melanoma need to be checked on a regular basis. If caught early, melanoma has a nearly 100% cure rate.
Sand Lake Dermatology Center’s Quick Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer
- Wear a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF 30 daily, even if you are indoors most of the time. UV rays can penetrate window glass so even commuters are at risk.
- Apply sunscreen daily to the face, neck, chest, arms and hands. Make it part of your morning routine. There are excellent sunblocks on the market today. You can no longer use the excuse of feeling sticky and thick! Some of our favorites are: Elta MD UV Aero SPF 45, SkinMedica Daily Physical Defense SPF 30, Tizo Facial Mineral Fusion SPF 40 and Vanicream Sensitive Skin SPF 60.
- Men: don’t forget your head and ears. We see lots of skin cancers here.
- Do not deliberately tan. Buy a good umbrella or tent for the beach. Start a new trend with your friends.
- Avoid tanning booths. No discussion. There are plenty of great self-tanning products and sprays available today—use those if you want some color. Our favorite self tanning products are the M.D. Face flawless facial self-tanning spray and the M.D. Glow self-tanning spray and instant bronzing mist.
- Moms and Dads: Don’t neglect yourself in the morning. Before going to the park, your playdate or for a walk—you must apply sunscreen!