Q: How common is skin cancer?
A: One in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer. Most of these are basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas. Melanoma, while not the most common, is the most serious form of skin cancer and continues to show increasing rates. One American dies every hour from melanoma.
If melanoma is recognized and treated early, it is almost always curable, but if it is not, the cancer can advance and spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal. While it is not the most common of the skin cancers, it causes the most deaths. The American Cancer Society estimates that at present, about 120,000 new cases of melanoma in the US are diagnosed in a year.
Q: Are all skin cancers caused by sun exposure?
A: Ninety to 95 percent of cases are caused by sun exposure, and most of these are basal-cell and squamous-cell carcinomas. Melanoma is a bit more complicated because there are other risk factors beyond sun exposure. Fortunately, sun exposure is a risk factor you can control.
Q: How do moles relate to skin cancer?
A: When looking at a mole, we consider its size, shape and color and then whether these characteristics are changing. If moles are abnormally dark, irregularly colored, or increasing in size, or if you have many large or irregular-looking moles, you should come in for an exam.
Q: How can I tell if I am at risk for skin cancer?
A: Risk factors for skin cancer include exposure to sun, greater than 50 pigmented moles and a personal or family history of skin cancer. Also, people with red or blond hair, light eyes, sun freckling and an inability to tan are at greater risk.
Q: What are some things I can do to prevent skin cancer?
A: We suggest staying out of the sun between the hours of 11am and 2 pm. Daily use of sunscreen is important. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Wear protective clothing while outdoors. A wide-brimmed hat is also an excellent investment for your skin.
Q: How can I tell if I have skin cancer?
A: If during a self-exam you notice red or scaly spots, pigmented spots, spots that change shape or size over time, spots that bleed or have scabs that won’t heal, or spots that remain tender beyond a few days, you should come in for an exam. The best way to determine whether a spot is skin cancer is to have it examined by a doctor. We can often tell within seconds whether something is wrong or not.
If you have a mole, it is important to check it regularly for any changes. Learning the ABCDE of Melanoma may save your life:
A- Asymmetry – If you draw a line through this mole, the two halves will not match.
B- Border – The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
C- Color – Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, blue or some other color.
D- Diameter – Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on your pencil (1/4 inch or 6 mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
E- Evolving – Any change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — points to danger.
Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately. During the coming months, we are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays daily. Taking a minute or two to cover your exposed skin with sunscreen may just save your life. Please use sunscreen EVERY day, don’t become a melanoma statistic.
We offer comprehensive skin cancer screenings.
Call today to schedule your appointment.
Joel F. Waltzer, MD
Tanya Ames, PA-C
Tanya Buck, PA-C
1108 Goodlette Road North
Naples, FL 34102