When it comes to skin cancer, there is a lot of misinformation out there about what causes it, what to look out for and what you can do to prevent skin cancer.
Needless to say, skin cancer is not a phrase to be thrown around; while most skin cancers are treatable, it can take a toll on you emotionally, financially and aesthetically.
In this post, you will learn what you need to know about skin cancer and what you can do to prevent it.
Skin Cancer – What You Should Know
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of your skin cells.
Your skin cells are constantly dividing and growing in a bid to create new skin cells to replace the ones we lose each day.
Sometimes, the mechanism that regulates this skin growth malfunctions. When this happens, it can result in cancerous growths on the skin.
Skin cancer tends to develop on portions of the skin that are exposed to the sun, although there are occasions where the cancer will form in an area that is not exposed to the sun.
There are three common types of skin cancer that we will discuss in this post – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Each of these types of cancers can occur in people of all types of skin tones.
Symptoms of Skin Cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinomas occur primarily in parts of the skin that are exposed to sunlight. The major symptom here is usually a bump that is waxy or pearly in nature. The carcinoma may also as a flat lesion that is either the same tone as your skin or will show up as a dark brown area.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This also occurs in parts of the skin that are exposed to sunlight.
Squamous cell carcinomas are red, hard nodules or they could be flat with a dry and crusty surface.
Melanomas can happen on any part of the skin – sun-exposed or not. They occur in people of all skin tones and should not be dismissed. Melanomas signs include:
- Large brownish spot
- If you have a mole that changes color, size or begins to bleed, this may be cause for concern
- Dark lesions on the palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes in the mouth, nose, vagina or anus
- A multicolored lesion on the skin with irregular borders
What can you do to avoid skin cancer?
As you can see, direct exposure to the sun rays and particularly to the ultraviolet rays of the sun (UV) is a major underlying cause for skin cancer.
But melanomas for instance, in some cases happen even if there is no exposure to the sun.
So what can you do to keep skin cancer away?
Here are some tips.
- Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day. The sun’s rays are the strongest between about 10am and 4pm. In the summer, we could even extend that a little bit. If you don’t need to be in the sun, don’t be. And if you happen to be outside it is helpful if you stay in the shade – think tents, umbrellas, caps etc.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen with an SPF content of at least 15 is helpful in blocking some of the harmful rays of the sun. And yes, you should wear sunscreen even in the winter!
- Wear protective clothing in the sun.
- Be aware of drugs that make you more sensitive to the sun. Ask your doctor if any prescription medication you are on makes you sensitive to the sun.
- Avoid tanning beds. These may seem like a good idea for a quick and easy tan but inevitably, there are more negatives than positives.
- If you notice any suspicious changes in your skin or any of the symptoms discussed above, report it to your doctor immediately! If you are one of our patients, call our office so we can get you the treatment you need ASAP.
Skin cancer can be easily overlooked. And like with most cancers, the earlier we detect it and initiate treatment, the more likely it is to fully fight it.
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