Important Skin Cancer Stats
There are a few important skin cancer stats you should know to better comprehend the seriousness of this condition and how it can impact your health and wellbeing.
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of seventy.
- More people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States than all other cancers combined.
- More than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour.
- About ninety percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
- The majority of melanomas are caused by excessive sun exposure.
- Only twenty to thirty percent of melanomas are found in existing moles, while seventy to eighty percent show up on normal-looking skin.
- Ultraviolet radiation is a proven human carcinogen.
- More people develop skin cancer because of indoor tanning than develop lung cancer because of smoking.
Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancers arent all identical, and they may not cause many symptoms. Still, unusual changes to your skin can be a warning sign for the different types of cancer. Being alert for changes to your skin may help you get a diagnosis earlier.
Watch out for symptoms, including:
- skin lesions: A new mole, unusual growth, bump, sore, scaly patch, or dark spot develops and doesnt go away.
- asymmetry: The two halves of the lesion or mole arent even or identical.
- border: The lesions have ragged, uneven edges.
- color: The spot has an unusual color, such as white, pink, black, blue, or red.
- diameter: The spot is larger than one-quarter inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
- evolving: You can detect that the mole is changing size, color, or shape.
What Does Early Skin Cancer Look Like
It can be challenging to tell if a skin change is unimportant or, in fact, is a sign of developing skin cancer. Skin cancer is not uncommon, as one in five Americans will develop skin cancer before age 70. Learning to spot the warning signs is vital. When identified early, skin cancer is highly curable. Do you know what to look for or when to seek medical advice?
Amount Of Exposure To Sunlight
The damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation accumulate over the years. In general, the risk of developing skin cancer increases with the amount of time spent under the sun and the intensity of radiation. The intensity of radiation varies according to the season of the year, time of day, geographic location , elevation above sea level, reflection from surfaces , stratospheric ozone, clouds, and air pollution.
Recent studies have focused on the effects of intermittent sun exposure in comparison to chronic exposure. It appears that the type of exposure may influence the type of cancer that develops. For example, intermittent solar exposure may be an important factor leading to the onset of basal cell carcinoma of the skin. Childhood sun exposure may also play an important part in the development of these cancers later in adult life. The pattern for cutaneous melanoma is similar to that for basal cell carcinoma.
In contrast, the relationship between squamous cell carcinoma and solar UVR appears to be quite different. For squamous cell tumours, high levels of chronic occupational sunlight exposure, especially in the 10 years prior to diagnosis, results in an elevated risk for this cancer in the highest exposure group.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
It is always vital to seek medical advice early for a skin change, no matter how small it may appear. Make an appointment with your healthcare provider for a skin exam if you notice:
- Any new changes, lesions, or persistent marks on your skin
- A mole that is asymmetrical, has an irregular border, is multicolored, is large in diameter, is evolving, or has begun to crust or bleed
- An “ugly duckling” mole on the skin
- Any changes to your skin that you are concerned about
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Know The Abcs Of Melanoma
Knowing the “ABCs” or signs of melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, can help you catch it early when it is most curable.
- A Melanomas often have an asymmetrical border, whereas benign moles are usually symmetrical.
- B Melanomas often have ragged or notched borders, whereas benign moles usually don’t.
- C Melanomas often contain multiple shades of brown or black within a single mole, whereas benign moles are generally one shade.
- D Early melanomas are often 6mm or larger, while benign moles are generally less than 6mm.
- E The symmetry, border, color or diameter of a mole has changed over time.
The ABCDE rule is a good guide to the common signs of melanoma. Notify your primary care doctor or dermatologist if you find spots that match the descriptions below. Some melanomas don’t fit the ABCDE rule so be aware of changes on your skin.
Are There Complications Of Skin Cancer Treatment
Most skin cancer treatments involve some localised damage to surrounding healthy skin such as swelling, reddening or blistering of the skin where the cancer is removed. Your doctor will explain any specific risks, which may include:
- pain or itching where the skin has been treated, or if lymph nodes have been removed
- scarring or changes to skin colour, after a skin cancer has been removed
- bleeding during or after surgery for more complicated skin cancers
- reactions sometimes your body may react to medicines used in treatment or surgery
- lymphoedema if your lymph nodes have been removed your neck, arm or leg may swell with fluid.
Its best to manage complications as early as possible, so ask your doctor for advice.
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How Do Cancer Cells Come About
The body is made up from millions of tiny cells. Different parts of the body such as organs, bones, muscles, skin and blood are made up from different specialised cells. Most cells have a centre called a nucleus. The nucleus in each cell contains thousands of genes which are made up from a chemical called DNA. The genes are like codes which control the functions of the cell. For example, different genes control how the cell makes proteins, or hormones, or other chemicals. Certain genes control when the cell should multiply, and certain genes even control when the cell should die.
Most types of cell in the body divide and multiply from time to time. As old cells wear out or become damaged, new cells are formed to replace them. Some cells normally multiply quickly. For example, you make millions of red blood cells each day as old ones become worn out and are broken down. Some cells do not multiply at all once they are mature – for example, brain cells. Normally, your body only makes the right number of cells that are needed.
Sometimes a cell becomes abnormal. This occurs because one gene in the cell becomes damaged or altered. The abnormal cell may then divide into two, then four, then eight, and so on. Lots of abnormal cells may then develop from the original abnormal cell. These cells do not know when to stop multiplying. A group of abnormal cells may then form. If this group of cells gets bigger, it becomes a large clump of abnormal cells called a tumour.
What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
Skin cancers first appear as a spot, lump or scaly area on the skin, or a mole that changes colour, size or shape over several weeks or months. These changes can appear anywhere on the body, particularly areas frequently exposed to the sun. Skin cancers may bleed and become inflamed, and can be tender to the touch.
There are certain characteristics to look for in spots and moles. Remember the ‘ABCDE’ of skin cancer when checking your skin:
- Asymmetry does each side of the spot or mole look different to the other?
- Border is it irregular, jagged or spreading?
- Colours are there several, or is the colour uneven or blotchy?
- Diameter look for spots that are getting bigger
- Evolution is the spot or mole changing or growing over time?
Changes may include an area that is scaly, shiny, pale or bright pink in colour, or a spot or lump that grows quickly and is thick, red, scaly or crusted.
See your doctor if you notice any new spots or an existing spot that changes size, shape or colour over several weeks or months. Your doctor can help you distinguish between a harmless spot such as a mole, and a sunspot or irregular mole that could develop later into skin cancer.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider
Questions to ask your dermatologist may include:
- What type of skin cancer do I have?
- What stage is my skin cancer?
- What tests will I need?
- Whats the best treatment for my skin cancer?
- What are the side effects of that treatment?
- What are the potential complications of this cancer and the treatment for it?
- What outcome can I expect?
- Do I have an increased risk of additional skin cancers?
- How often should I be seen for follow-up checkups?
What Are The Melanoma Stages And What Do They Mean
Stage 0 and I are localized, meaning they have not spread.
- Stage 0: Melanoma is localized in the outermost layer of skin and has not advanced deeper. This noninvasive stage is also called melanoma in situ.
- Stage I: The cancer is smaller than 1 mm in Breslow depth, and may or may not be ulcerated. It is localized but invasive, meaning that it has penetrated beneath the top layer into the next layer of skin. Invasive tumors considered stage IA are classified as early and thin if they are not ulcerated and measure less than 0.8 mm.
Find out about treatment options for early melanomas.
Intermediate or high-risk melanomas
Localized but larger tumors may have other traits such as ulceration that put them at high risk of spreading.
- Stage II: Intermediate, high-risk melanomas are tumors deeper than 1 mm that may or may not be ulcerated. Although they are not yet known to have advanced beyond the primary tumor, the risk of spreading is high, and physicians may recommend a sentinel lymph node biopsy to verify whether melanoma cells have spread to the local lymph nodes. Thicker melanomas, greater than 4.0 mm, have a very high risk of spreading, and any ulceration can move the disease into a higher subcategory of stage II. Because of that risk, the doctor may recommend more aggressive treatment.
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How Quickly Can Skin Cancer Grow
When doctors talk about skin cancer, they often reiterate the point that its important to catch any potential issues early in order to have the best chance of recovery. But exactly how quickly can skin cancer grow? Is it safe to wait a week after noticing something strange on your skin? How long should you wait before deciding that a spot is just a spot?
What Is Skin Cancer?
The term skin cancer actually encompasses a collection of different skin cancers, each with its own symptoms and potential growth rate. Some forms of skin cancer are considered to be less aggressive, such as basal cell carcinoma, while others are considered more aggressive, such as squamous cell carcinoma or malignant melanoma. The growth rate will depend on the person and type of skin cancer, explains Dr. Azeen Sadeghian, board certified dermatologist at Sanova Dermatology in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For example, some forms of skin cancer grow in a matter of weeks and others over months, she continues.
How Do I Spot It?
Dermatologists have come up with an easier way to gauge if your spot is of concern with the ABCs of Skin Cancer!
- A Asymmetry
- B Border Irregular
- C Color
- D Diameter
- E Evolving
Skin Cancer Detection & Treatment
Squamous Cell Carcinoma Stages
There are certain features that are considered to make the cancer at higher risk for spreading or recurrence, and these may also be used to stage squamous cell carcinomas. These include:
- Greater than 2 mm in thickness
- Invasion into the lower dermis or subcutis layers of the skin
- Invasion into the tiny nerves in the skin
- Location on the ear or on a hair-bearing lip
After the TNM components and risk factors have been established, the cancer is assigned to one of the five squamous cell carcinoma stages, which are labeled 0 to 4. The characteristics and stages of squamous cell cancer are:
Stage 0: Also called carcinoma in situ, cancer discovered in this stage is only present in the epidermis and has not spread deeper to the dermis.
Stage 1 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer is less than 2 centimeters, about 4/5 of an inch across, has not spread to nearby lymph nodes or organs, and has one or fewer high-risk features.
Stage 2 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer is larger than 2 centimeters across, and has not spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes, or a tumor of any size with 2 or more high risk features.
Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer has spread into facial bones or 1 nearby lymph node, but not to other organs.
Stage 4 squamous cell carcinoma: The cancer can be any size and has spread to 1 or more lymph nodes which are larger than 3 cm and may have spread to bones or other organs in the body.
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What Can I Do To Prevent Skin Cancer In My Child
The American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation advise you to:
Limit how much sun your child gets between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Put it on the skin of children older than 6 months of age who are exposed to the sun.
Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, even on cloudy days. Reapply after swimming.
Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand. They reflect the damaging rays of the sun. This can increase the chance of sunburn.
Make sure your child wears clothing that covers the body and shades the face. Hats should provide shade for both the face, ears, and back of the neck. Wearing sunglasses will reduce the amount of rays reaching the eye and protect the lids of the eyes, as well as the lens.
Dont let your child use or be around sunlamps or tanning beds.
The American Academy of Pediatrics approves of the use of sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months old if adequate clothing and shade are not available. You should still try to keep your baby out of the sun. Dress the baby in lightweight clothing that covers most surface areas of skin. But you also may use a small amount of sunscreen on the babys face and back of the hands.
Merkel Cell Carcinoma: A Rare Skin Cancer On The Rise
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare type of skin cancer that affects about 2,000 people in the United States each year.
Though its an uncommon skin cancer, cases of Merkel cell carcinoma have increased rapidly in the last couple of decades.
This type of cancer starts when cells in the skin, called Merkel cells, start to grow out of control.
Merkel cell carcinomas typically grow quickly and can be difficult to treat if they spread.
They can start anywhere on the body, but Merkel cell carcinomas commonly affect areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, and arms.
They may look like pink, red, or purple lumps that are firm when you touch them. Sometimes, they can open up as ulcers or sores.
Risk factors include:
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Does Sunlight Cause Skin Cancer
There is evidence that sunlight causes skin cancer. Skin cancer can be treated and cured without serious consequences. However, in some cases the condition can be life-threatening if not diagnosed in time.
Skin cancer is an occupational concern for people who work under the sun. The risk however, may be reduced through awareness of the problem, and by taking measures to prevent exposure to sunlight.
Screening For Skin Cancer
Again, the best way to screen for skin cancer is knowing your own skin. If you are familiar with the freckles, moles, and other blemishes on your body, you are more likely to notice quickly if something seems unusual.
To help spot potentially dangerous abnormalities, doctors recommend doing regular self-exams of your skin at home. Ideally, these self-exams should happen once a month, and should involve an examination of all parts of your body. Use a hand-held mirror and ask friends or family for help so as to check your back, scalp, and other hard-to-see areas of skin. If you or someone else notices a change on your skin, set up a doctors appointment to get a professional opinion.
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Other Cancers On The Face
A few other rare skin cancers that might happen on the face:
- Lymphoma of the skin is an uncommon type of white blood cell cancer.
- Kaposi’s sarcoma is cancer caused by a herpes virus in immunosuppressed patients that causes skin lesions on the face. They look like painless purplish spots.
- Skin adnexal tumors is a rare cancer type that starts in hair follicles or skin glands.
- Sarcomas are tumors of the connective tissuesspecifically the fat, nerves, bone, skin, and muscles 80% of which occur in the face, head, or neck.
- Cutaneous leiomyosarcoma is an uncommon soft-tissue sarcoma that can happen on the face.