What You Should Know About Skin Cancer
- Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. About 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Of these cases, more than 73,870 are melanoma, a cancer that claims nearly 9,940 lives each year.
- One person dies of melanoma every hour.
- Melanoma accounts for less than two percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
- Of the seven most common cancers in the US, melanoma is the only one whose incidence is increasing.
- 1 in 50 men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin during their lifetime.
- The overall risk of getting melanoma is about 1 in 50 for whites, 1 in 1,000 for blacks, 1 in 200 for Hispanics.
What is Melanoma skin cancer?
- Melanoma is cancer that begins in the melanocytes. Because most of these cells still make melanin, melanoma tumors are often brown or black. But this is not always the case, and melanomas can also have no color. Melanoma most often starts on the trunk (chest or back) in men and on the legs of women, but it can start in other places, too. Having dark skin lowers the risk of melanoma. But it does not mean that a person with dark skin will never get melanoma.
- Other skin cancers - Skin cancers that are not melanoma are sometimes grouped together as non-melanoma skin cancers because they start in skin cells other than melanocytes. These cancers include basal cell and squamous cell cancers. They are much more common than melanoma.
Signs & Symptoms of skin cancer
- The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that’s changing in size, shape, or color.
- A sore that does not heal.
- Spread of color from the border of a spot to the skin around it.
- Redness or a new swelling beyond the border; Itchiness, tenderness, or pain.
- Change in the surface of a mole -- scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or a new bump or nodule.
The following are some of the risk factors of skin cancer:
- UV (ultraviolet) light - Too much exposure to UV radiation is thought to be the biggest risk factor for most melanomas. The main source of UV light is the sun. Tanning lamps and booths are also sources of UV light.
- Moles - Certain types of moles increase a person's chance of getting melanoma.
- Fair Skin – Whites with fair skin, freckles, or red or blond hair have a higher risk of melanoma. Red-haired people have the highest risk.
- Family History - Around 10% of people with melanoma have a close relative (mother, father, brother, sister, child) with the disease.
The American Association of Dermatologists recommends that everyone follow these sun protection guidelines:
- Avoid outdoor activities between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest.
- Seek shade whenever possible.
- Protect your skin with clothing.
- Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
- Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
- Wear sun-protective clothing and accessories, such as wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
- Follow the "Shadow Rule" -- if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun's damaging rays are at their strongest and you are likely to burn.
In addition, physicians recommend that you conduct a monthly self skin exam to check for changes in moles, warts and other blemishes on the skin, especially parts which are exposed to the sun. Detection is still the most important tool for catching skin cancer early—and treating it effectively.