Skin cancer is the most common form of human cancers, affecting more than one million Americans every year. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives. Though the disease is more common in people with light skin and a history of excessive sun exposure, it is extremely important that people of color also have routine screenings for skin cancer since they can develop the disease in uncommon locations such as the scalp, palms, feet and nails. People who have had skin cancer are at a higher risk of developing a new skin cancer, which is why regular self-examination and doctor visits are imperative. The vast majority of skin cancers are composed of three different types: Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma. All have to be treated and none will go away on their own. Any suspicious lesion, or an existing mole that changes shape, size, texture or color, should be immediately examined and diagnosed by a professional dermatologist right away.
Preventing Skin Cancer
It is important to make habit of checking your body for any suspicious changes in your skin and yo have regular examinations by a dermatologist. Roughly 90% of nonmelanoma cancers are attributable to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. That’s why prevention involves:
- Staying out of the sun during peak hours (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.).
- Covering up the arms and legs with protective clothing.
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.
- Using sunscreens year round with a SPF of 15 or greater. Look for products that use the term “broad spectrum.”
- Checking your skin monthly and contacting your dermatologist if you notice any changes.
- Getting regular skin examinations. It is advised that adults over 40 get an annual exam with a dermatologist.
Skin Cancer Screenings
When Dr. Lambiase screens you for skin cancer, he is extremely thorough. He will look over your whole body, including your scalp, to discover any suspicious skin lesions or areas that appear to be precancerous. Precancerous lesions may be frozen with a simple spray. Any potential skin cancers will be biopsied to determine whether or not they are malignant. If a biopsy comes back positive for cancer, depending on its type and stage, it may require the removal of more damaged tissue, MOHS surgery, photodynamic therapy and/or the biopsy of a nearby lymph node to see whether the cancer has spread. There are several different kinds of skin cancer, some much more common than others. The types of pre cancers and cancers usually seen in our office are:
Other, less common types of skin cancer include:
- Kaposi sarcoma, which appears as dark red or purple patches on the skin or mucous membranes and often occurs in people who are infected with HIV
- Merkel cell carcinoma which causes shiny nodules under the skin and in hair follicles and most often occurs in older individuals
- Sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive type of cancer which originates in the oil glands and often appears on the eyelid