Over one million people this year will be diagnosed with skin cancer. This is more than all other forms of cancer combined. It is estimated that more than one in 6 will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime. The three most common forms of skin cancer all basal cell carcincoma, squamous cell carinoma and malignant melanoma. They each have their own look, growth and outcome.
More than one in one hundred will develop a malignant melanoma in their lives which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It is responsible for three quarters of all deaths related to skin cancer. However, if it is caught early melanoma can have a cure rate of 100%. That is why the American Board of Dermatology reccomends that you have a full body skin examination once a year by a board certified dermatologist. A person who has at least 3 years of training after medical school in dermatology. At our offices this will be done by Dr. Weintraub himself. There are no nurse practitioners or medical assistants, you will only be seen by the doctor.
Basal Cell Carcinoma & Squamous Cell Carinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma are the most common form of skin cancer and make up over three quarters of all skin cancers. They are caused primarily by long term sun exposure and typically occur on sun exposed areas. It can appear as a shiny bump that is pearly or translucent and it is often pink, red or white. It can appear as an open sore that bleeds, oozes or crusts and remains open for 3 or more weeks. It can appear as a scar-like area that is white, yellow or waxy and often has poorly defined borders. It can appear as a pink growth with slightly elevated rolled borders and a crusted indentation in the center. It can appear as a reddish patch or an irritated area.
Basal cell carcinomas usually grow slowly and are typically found in people with fair skin, light hair and eyes. They usually have an excellent prognosis since it is uncommon to spread to other parts of the body. However, they can slowly destroy normal healthy tissue where they are found and therefore need to be properly treated.
Squamous Cell Carinoma accounts for over 15% of the skin cancers and is second most common to basal cell carcinoma. This is also caused primarily by long term sun exposure and typically occurs on sun exposed areas. They can appear as a thick, rough, scaly patch that may bleed. They often look like warts and sometimes appear as open sores with a raised border with a crusted surface over an elevated base. It can appear as a persistent, scaly red patch with irregular borders that sometimes crusts or bleeds. The skin around them typically shows signs of sun damage such as wrinkling, color changes and loss of elasticity.
The most important difference from a basal cell carcinomas is squamous cell carcinomas have the potential to spread or metastasize. Pink scaly growths called solar or actinic keratoses occur in sun-exposed areas of patients. These start earlier especially in those with fair complexions and a history of frequent sun exposure. These actinic keratoses should also be treated to prevent their potential from turning into a squamous cell carcinoma.
Malignant Melanoma make up about one in twenty of the skin cancers. In the past two decades, as outdoor recreational activities have increase and left people out in the sun more the melanoma incidence rates have more than tripled. Fair skinned people with light hair and eye color and those who sunburn easily are at increased risk of developing melanoma. You are also at increased risk if you have a family history of melanoma or other skin cancer. People with large, unusually colored and irregularly shaped moles are also at higher risk.
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer While it is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma can also have a 100% cure rate if detected and surgically removed at an early stage (i.e. melanoma in situ). Melanoma may occur in an existing mole or with the appearance of a new mole.
Not only should patients have a complete skin examination by their dermatologist on a regular basis, they should also be doing monthly self-examinations. To do this, you need to know your “ABCDE's”...
A. Asymmetry — moles that are not perfectly round, one half does not equal the other half in regard to size and shape
B. Border — an irregular, jagged or blurred border
C. Color — uneven or different colors in a mole or any of the colors red, white, blue or black
D. Diameter — moles larger than 5 or 6 millimeters, approximately the size of a pencil eraser
E. Evolving - if a mole is changing its look or starting to itch you should also have it checked
Like your mother used to tell you an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So try to not go in the sun from 10 A. M. till 4 P. M. When you do you should wear protective hats and other clothing when possible. You should use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater with UVA and UVB protection. You should reapply the sunscreen every one to two hours when you are in the sun. You should see your dermatologist at least annually and call if anything does not look right or has changed color, size or shape or it started to itch or hurt. You should be seen more often if you have a personal history of skin cancer.