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What You NEED to Know About Skin Cancer This Summer

A doctor holds a magnifying glass to a suspicious and possibly cancerous small brown smart on the right side of a woman's upp

Skin Cancer: A Familiar Foe

Skin cancer is the single most common form of cancer.

So there’s a chance that reading this blog could literally be a life-saver!

This is especially true now that summer is in full swing. Frequent outdoor trips means frequent sun exposure and frequent sun exposure means increased cancer risk.

Which means there’s no time to waste...

Read on to learn all about the most common types of skin cancer.

Basal Cell Carcinoma: The Most Common Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most prolific skin cancer in the United States. Nearly 4 million Americans receive the diagnosis every year.

BCC is by no means a death sentence, however, as there is a nearly 100% survival rate if the condition is treated before metastasis (spreading to other parts of the body).

Annual diagnosis numbers have actually been increasing in the US, but don’t worry, it’s not because the sun’s ultraviolet rays are somehow getting stronger.

In fact it likely represents positive changes such as longer life-spans and better detection on the part of medical science.

Metastasis of BCC is rare, affecting just about 0.1% of patients. If it does happen, it can spread to the lymph nodes, lungs, and bones.

That’s when things can get ugly.

Avoid the ugliness by practicing safe sun and getting yearly skin checks—some of which can be done through telehealthfrom your doctor. You should also be doing your own full-body self-examinations on a more frequent basis.

Symptoms of BCC can include unusual (new) sores, bumps, and patches. Any time a growth seems to have changed color or increased in size can be a warning sign.

Once detected, time becomes of the essence. Not only can BCC metastasize but the longer one waits to treat it, the more likely it is to return.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The second most common form of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. The condition is about one-fifth as common as BCCs.

And just like BCCs, they are curable when caught early.

SCCs can present as scaly, red, or wart-like skin. The growths may become encrusted, tingle, itch or bleed.

While these growths most commonly present on skin in areas that are often exposed to the sun, they can also appear on the genitals.

Much like BCCs, SCCs can be deadly if left untreated. 15,000 Americans die annually from the condition. 

So as always—when in doubt, check it out!

Those who die from BCC and SCC most often are older individuals and those with weakened immune systems.

That said, younger people can get these cancers as well, especially those who have had major sun exposure or use of tanning beds.

So while it is less common than BCC, it’s just as crucial to prevent and treat if necessary.

Melanoma: The Deadliest Form of Skin Cancer

Less common, more deadly.

Melanoma accounts for about 1% of skin cancers cases but is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths.

Unlike BCC and SCC which are relatively unlikely to spread, the danger of melanoma comes from the fact that it is more likely to move on to other parts of the body.

Melanoma gets its name from melanocytes—the cells that create melanin—which give our skin its pigmentation. When these cells grow out of control, melanoma sets in. 

Because these melanocytes are responsible for skin pigmentation, melanoma growths are usually black or brown, but they can also be pink or white.

Parts of the skin often exposed to the sun are most likely to present with melanoma: the chest, back, legs, neck and face.

Having dark pigmentation decreases your likelihood of getting melanoma but doesn’t eliminate the risk. White people are 20 times more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma than those with darker complexions.

Melanoma is particularly insidious because it can appear on unexpected sites like under the nails, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet.

In fact, legendary musician Bob Marley was diagnosed with melanoma stemming from underneath his toenail at age 32. He passed away four years later at age 36.

Although melanoma is most common in those 65 years and older, it is one of the most common cancers amongst those 35 and under.

Actinic Keratosis: A Precursor to Skin Cancer

Most people wouldn’t thank their lucky stars for a scaly, dry, and rough patch of skin.

But actinic keratosis, also commonly known as solar keratosis, may be a blessing in disguise.

That’s because it is precancerous and acts as a blatant warning that cancer may be on the way.

Hence, at the appearance of actinic keratosis, one should have the area evaluated by their doctor and a biopsy performed if deemed necessary.

These developments are often removed from the skin as a precautionary measure regardless of the biopsy result.

If left untreated, there’s a 5%-10% chance it can become a squamous cell carcinoma.

The severity of the condition isn’t the only factor in the skin cancer equation, but so is the likelihood of recurrence.

Actinic keratosis is more likely to become actinic keratoses—plural.

But what about prevention? Say your skin is free of these patches, what can you do to try to avoid getting one?

As always, when it comes to skin cancer, the sun is enemy number 1. Minimize your sun exposure by seeking the shade or indoors, particularly during peak ultraviolet hours from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M

You Don’t Have to Succumb to Cancer

While there are a few other types of skin cancer, BCCs, SCCs and melanoma are the most common.

The best way to survive skin cancer is not getting it in the first place.

That means avoiding the sun, particularly at peak hours. Not only does it mean using broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, but also wearing sun protective clothing.

Tanning beds should also be avoided as there is a direct correlation between their use and skin cancer.

SINY Dermatology offers world-class treatment of all medical dermatologic conditions—especially skin cancer—including MOHs surgery

To schedule an appointment at one of our offices in Brooklyn, Manhattan, or Queens, call 800-778-3090.


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