Basal cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- The most common forms of skin cancer.
- Arise within the top layer of the skin and usually appear on the sun-exposed areas of the body, including the face, forearms, and neck, as a scaly area or bump that persists and bleeds
- If detected and treated early, these cancers have a better than 95 percent cure rate.
- Is the most deadly form of skin cancer.
- May suddenly appear without warning, but also can develop from or near a mole.
- Is found most frequently in men over age 50.
- Can occur anywhere on the body, but are most common on the upper backs of men and women and on the legs of women.
- Tends to spread, making treatment essential.
- Overexposure to ultraviolet light (from the sun and indoor tanning) is the greatest risk factor for skin cancer.
- In a 2002 survey conducted by the AAD, 81 percent of survey respondents still think they look good after having been out in the sun.
- Caucasians with fair skin have four times the risk of developing melanoma as Caucasians with olive skin.
- People who have already had one melanoma are at increased risk for developing melanoma.
- People who have many moles, large moles or typical (unusual) moles have a substantially increased risk of developing melanoma.
- Redheads and blondes have a twofold to fourfold increased risk of developing melanoma.
- A family history of melanoma increases a person’s chances of developing melanoma.
Prevention of Skin Cancer
Protection from ultraviolet light may prevent many skin cancers (See the Sun Safety Tips below).
- When detected early, dermatologic surgical removal of thin melanomas and the majority of basal and squamous cell carcinomas can cure the disease in most cases.
- Early detection is essential; there is a direct correlation between the thickness of the melanoma and survival rates.
- In addition to the surgical removal, other treatments include electrodesiccation (tissue destruction by heat), cryosurgery (tissue destruction by freezing), laser therapy for skin cancer, and radiation therapy.
Sun safety Tips
Because unprotected sun exposure is the leading risk factor in the development of skin cancer, including premature aging, dermatologists recommend the following precautions:
- Avoid the mid-day sun when the sun’s rays are the strongest – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, one that protects against both UVA and UVB, with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 15 or higher.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours – even on cloudy days – especially after swimming or strenuous exercise.
- Wear protective, tightly-woven clothing, such as a long sleeved shirt and pants and a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when outdoors.
- Don’t forget that lips get sunburned, too. So apply a lip balm that contains sunscreen with and SPF 15 or higher.
- No shadow…seek the shade! If your shadow is shorter than you are, you’re likely to sunburn.
- Protect Children. Minimize sun exposure and apply sunscreen to children.
- Avoid reflective surfaces, such as water, snow and sand, which can reflect up to 85 percent of the sun’s damaging rays.
- Avoid tanning beds.
- Contrary to the popular misconception that tanning beds are “safer” than natural sunlight, studies have shown that tanning beds still emit dangerous levels of UV rays and are considered by dermatologists to be a serious health risk.
In December 2002, the Department of Health and Human Services added UV radiation from the sun or artificial light sources such as tanning beds and sun lamps to the government’s list of known carcinogens.
- The AAD has designated each May as Melanoma/Skin Caner Detection and Prevention Month. (For skin cancer statistics and risk factors, see the Skin cancer page).
- The first Monday in May is Melanoma Monday, designated as “National Skin self-Examination Day” in order to raise awareness about melanoma and encourage individuals to begin a lifelong habit of regular skin self-examinations.
Dermatologists know that the No. 1 product to prevent wrinkles and sun damage is sunscreen. Used daily on the face and body, sunscreen can ward off skin cancer and premature aging. The academy recommends the following tips for sunscreen selection and use:
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays) with an SPF of 15 or higher.
- The sun protection Factor (SPF) system currently used to rate the strength of sunscreens measures their ability to provide primarily UVB protection, which helps prevent sunburn, and does not measure the amount of protection it provides from UVA rays. Studies show that UVA rays can cause immunosuppression (or the weakening of the body’s ability to protect itself from cancer and other diseases).
- Use sunscreen every day if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes, even on cloudy days. More than 80 percent of the sun’s harmful rays are filtered through clouds.
- Look for sunscreens with ingredients that provide broad-spectrum protection, including: benzophenones (oxybenzone), cinnamates (octylmethyl, cinnamate and cinoxate), sulisobenzone, salicylates, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone (Parsol 1789).
- Sunscreens should be applied t dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.
- When applying sunscreen, pay particular attention to the face, ears, hands, and arms, and generously coat the skin that is not covered by clothing.
- One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount of sunscreen needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly.
- Sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily. Sunscreens rub off as well as wash off, so after drying with a towel, reapply sunscreen for continued protection.
Unless indicated by an expiration date, the FDA requires that all sunscreens be stable and at their original strength for at least three years. However, if you are using the correct amount, a bottle of sunscreen should not last you very long.