How Common Is Melanoma
Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancers, but causes the great majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Its one of the most common cancers in young people under 30, especially in young women.
Melanoma incidence has dramatically increased over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that increasing levels of ultraviolet exposure are one of the main reasons for this rapid rise in the number of melanoma cases.
Will Scan Ease Back Ache Worries
Question: IVE had disc problems in my back for many years. This time its really bad, with back pain and sciatica down my leg. Im worried its serious should I ask for a scan?
Jeanette, by email
Answer: Its certainly worth discussing it with your GP. Most bad backs dont need scans. Thats because the symptoms usually get better on their own, and scans dont give much useful information.
There are two exceptions. One is if the back pain might be caused by something serious like cancer.
This is rare. Clues include severe pain getting worse over weeks or months with no let-up and no improvement with painkillers. The pain may repeatedly wake you at night and you might also be generally unwell losing weight, say.
The other exception is if your doc suspects a slipped disc. This disc can press on a nerve typically the sciatic nerve causing pain down your leg.
Most of these improve given time. But if it goes on for months, a scan is a good idea because you might need an op.
The scan will help confirm the diagnosis and pinpoint for the surgeon exactly where the problem is.
Question: I HAVE long-term varicose veins from my knee down to my foot. Over the last few months,
Ive noticed a brown pigment on the front of my shin. Ive tried various creams but nothing gets rid of it.
Mick, by email
pigment in your skin. Unfortunately, this staining is permanent.
Question: With every meal, I have a problem with food sticking. What should I do about this?
Fred, by email
Skin Cancer Diagnosis Always Requires A Skin Biopsy
When you see a dermatologist because youve found a spot that might be skin cancer, your dermatologist will examine the spot.
If the spot looks like it could be a skin cancer, your dermatologist will remove it all or part of it. This can easily be done during your appointment. The procedure that your dermatologist uses to remove the spot is called a skin biopsy.
Having a skin biopsy is essential. Its the only way to know whether you have skin cancer. Theres no other way to know for sure.
What your dermatologist removes will be looked at under a microscope. The doctor who examines the removed skin will look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your biopsy report will tell you what type of skin cancer cells were found. When cancer cells arent found, your biopsy report will explain what was seen under the microscope.
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Can Changing My Diet Help Prevent Melanoma
The American Cancer Society advocates eating a plant-based diet over an animal-based diet as part of a healthy plan to avoid all cancers. Growing evidence suggests that plants pack a powerful punch in any fight against cancer because they’re nutritious, cholesterol-free and fiber-rich.
Theres no doubt that a healthy diet can protect your immune system. Having a strong immune system is important to help your body fight disease. Some research has shown that a Mediterranean diet is a healthy choice that may help prevent the development of cancer. Talk to your healthcare provider about the role food plays in lowering your cancer risks.
Some skin and immune-system healthy foods to consider include:
- Daily tea drinking: The polyphenols in tea help strengthen your immune system. Green tea contains more polyphenols than black tea.
- High vegetable consumption: Eating carrots, cruciferous and leafy vegetables is linked to the prevention of cutaneous melanoma.
- Weekly fish intake: Study participants who ate fish weekly seemed to avoid developing the disease when compared to those who did not eat fish weekly.
Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Treatment
Many early-stage small basal cell cancers or squamous cell cancers can be removed by Mohs surgery, a technique that spares normal tissue through repeated intraoperative margin testing, removing only the cancer and leaving adjacent normal tissue. Tumors with nerve involvement, lymph node involvement or of a large size are not suitable for Mohs surgery. They require a multimodality approach to treatment, with formal surgical resection and adjuvant radiation or chemotherapy.
Melanoma is more likely to spread, and aggressive surgical resection with wide margins is required, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy.
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery
Johns Hopkins Head and Neck Cancer Surgery provides comprehensive surgical care and treatment for head and neck cancers. Our surgeons are at the leading edge of head and neck cancer treatment. You will benefit from the skilled care of head and neck surgeons, guiding clinical advancements in the field of head and neck cancer care.
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Look Out For An Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is another warning sign of melanoma. This recognition strategy is based on the concept that most normal moles on your body resemble one another, while melanomas stand out like ugly ducklings in comparison. This highlights the importance of not just checking for irregularities, but also comparing any suspicious spot to surrounding moles to determine whether it looks different from its neighbors. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.
Melanoma: Changes In Size
Skin Cancer Foundation
Our final photograph is a melanoma tumor that is large and had gotten bigger over time a key characteristic of a melanoma tumor. If you see any suspicious skin lesion, especially one that is new or changed in size, contact your healthcare provider.
Remember, melanoma can be cured if detected early, unlike many cancers. So knowing your risk factors and communicating them to your healthcare provider may help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices. If you have multiple moles or other risk factors, it is important that you perform regular self-examinations of your skin, see a dermatologist for regular examinations, and protect yourself from the sun.
Skin Cancer Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next healthcare providers appointment to help you ask the right questions.
Abcde Melanoma Detection Guide
A is for Asymmetry
Look for spots that lack symmetry. That is, if a line was drawn through the middle, the two sides would not match up.
B is for Border;
A spot with a spreading or irregular edge .
C is for Colour;
Blotchy spots with a number of colours such as black, blue, red, white and/or grey.
D is for Diameter
Look for spots that are getting bigger.
E is for Evolving;
Spots that are changing and growing.
These are some changes to look out for when checking your skin for signs of any cancer:
- New moles.
- Moles that increases in size.
- An outline of a mole that becomes notched.
- A spot that changes colour from brown to black or is varied.
- A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it.
- The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated.
- Moles that itch or tingle.
- Moles that bleed or weep.
- Spots that look different from the others.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
Skin Cancer Symptoms
If a spot on your skin looks suspicious to you, theres one cardinal rule: Get to a doctor to have it checked out. Thats because all three of the most common skin cancers including the most dangerous, melanoma ;are 99 percent curable if diagnosed and removed early, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation .
The SCF recommends scheduling an appointment once a year with a dermatologist for a full-body skin check to screen for skin cancer.
If youre in a higher risk group, such as you have a history of atypical moles, your dermatologist may suggest coming in more often.
In advance of your appointment, you should examine your own body in order to start a conversation with your doctor about any skin changes. Avoid nail polish and makeup and keep your hair down so that you dont inadvertently keep any suspect moles hidden.
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What Are Some General Signs And Symptoms Of Cancer
Most signs and symptoms are not caused by cancer but can be caused by other things.;If you have any signs and symptoms that don’t go away or get worse, you should see a doctor to find out whats causing them. If cancer is not the cause, a doctor can help figure out what the cause is and treat it, if needed.
For instance, lymph nodes are part of the bodys immune system and help capture harmful substances in the body. Normal lymph nodes are tiny and can be hard to find. But when theres infection, inflammation, or cancer, the nodes can get larger. Those near the bodys surface can get big enough to feel with your fingers, and some can even be seen as swelling or a lump under the skin. One reason lymph nodes may swell is if cancer gets trapped there. So, if you have unusual swelling or a lump, you should see your doctor to figure out whats going on.
Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms that may be caused by cancer. However, any of these can be caused by other problems as well.
Sometimes, its possible to find cancer before you have symptoms. The American Cancer Society and other health groups recommend cancer-related check-ups and certain tests for people even though they have no symptoms. This helps find certain cancers early. You can find more information on early detection at the;American Cancer Society Guidelines for the Early Detection of Cancer.
Changes In Your Poo Or Pee
Let your doctor know if youve noticed a change in your bowel habits, have problems peeing, or if theres blood in your pee or poo. A change in bowel habits can include constipation, looser poo or pooing more often. Problems peeing might be needing to go more often or urgently, experiencing pain when peeing, or not being able to go when you need to.
These symptoms can all be caused by conditions other than cancer, but its best to get them checked out.
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Looks Can Be Deceptive
Precancerous skin growths may look harmless. As you now know, their looks can be deceptive. Following your dermatologists recommendations can help protect your skin and your health.
Precancerous skin growths may look harmless
These arrows point to precancerous skin growths that are barely noticeable.
Related AAD resources
How Can I Help Prevent Sun Damage And Ultimately Skin Cancer
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, its never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age; for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by limiting sun exposure.
Maintaining healthy skin
- Stop smoking: People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is unclear. It may be because smoking interferes with normal blood flow in the skin.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 to 3 hours thereafter. Reapply sooner if you get wet or perspire significantly.
- Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Relieve dry skin using a humidifier at home, bathing with soap less often , and using a moisturizing lotion.
- Become a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child. Eighty percent of a persons lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.
Understanding UV index
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Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
Squamous cell skin cancers can vary in how they look. They usually occur on areas of skin exposed to the sun;like the scalp or ear.
Thanks to Dr Charlotte Proby for her permission and the;photography.
You should see your doctor if you;have:
- a spot or sore that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks
- a spot or sore that hurts, is itchy, crusty, scabs over, or bleeds for more than 4 weeks
- areas where the skin has broken down and doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, and you can’t think of a reason for this change
Your doctor can decide whether you need any tests.
Cancer and its management J Tobias and D;HochhauserBlackwell, 2015
Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT De Vita, TS Lawrence;and SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2018
Skin Cancer On The Face: Types And Prevention
Casey Gallagher, MD, is board-certified in dermatology. He is a clinical professor at the University of Colorado in Denver, and co-founder and practicing dermatologist at the Boulder Valley Center for Dermatology in Colorado.
Because it is exposed to the sun more than other parts of the body, the skin on your face is especially vulnerable to skin cancer. And skin cancer on the face can be mistaken for other conditionssuch as age spots, pimples, scarring, acne, styes, and cysts.
Skin cancers that tend to occur more often on the face include actinic keratosis, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. The face is also a common site of melanoma and there are several other lesser-common skin cancers that can affect the face. The risk of getting skin cancers on the face increases with high amounts of sun exposure and other ultraviolet light exposure.;
About 75% of non-melanoma skin cancers occur on the head or neck.
Skin cancer occurs when cells in the skin’s layers become damaged in ways that cause them to look and act differently than the normal healthy cells around them and start to grow out of control. UV rays play a major role in damaging cells by causing gene mutations.;
You can watch for signs of skin cancer on your face by paying attention to new or odd-looking spots or feeling growths, splotches, or moles.
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See A Suspicious Spot See A Dermatologist
If you find a spot on your skin that could be skin cancer, its time to see a dermatologist. Found early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Often a dermatologist can treat an early skin cancer by removing the cancer and a bit of normal-looking skin.
Given time to grow, treatment for skin cancer becomes more difficult.
What Causes Melanoma
Most experts agree that a major risk factor for melanoma is overexposure to sunlight, especially sunburns when you are young. Statistics tell us that 86% of melanomas are caused by solar ultraviolet rays. How does the sun cause skin cancer? UV exposure can cause damage to a cells DNA, making changes to particular genes that affect how cells grow and divide. The potential for problems comes when your skin’s DNA is damaged and those cells start reproducing.
UV radiation from tanning beds also increases the risk of melanoma and has been designated as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Tanning bed use may be related to over over 6,000 cases of melanoma per year in the United States.
Although anyone can develop melanoma, an increased risk for developing the disease is seen in people with:
- A personal history of melanoma.
- A family history of melanoma.
- Fair skin, freckles, blond or red hair and blue eyes.
- Excess sun exposure, including blistering sunburns.
- An address near the equator or in high elevations living in these locations may increase your UV exposure.
- A history of tanning bed use.
- Many moles, especially atypical moles.
- A weakened immune system.
Melanoma is more common in white people, but it can occur in people of all skin types. People with darker skin most often get melanoma on their palms, soles and nails.
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What Is Sunburn
Sunburn is an inflammatory reaction to ultraviolet radiationdamage to the skins outermost layers. At the heart of it all is melanin, a pigment that gives your skin its color and defends it against the suns rays. Melanin works by darkening your unprotected sun-exposed skin. The amount of melanin you produce is determined by genetics, which is why some people get sunburned while others tan. Both are signs of cellular damage to the skin. For people with less melanin, prolonged unprotected sun exposure can cause skin cells to become red, swollen and painful,;also known as sunburn. Sunburns can range from mild to blistering.
After sunburn, your skin may start to peel. This is a sign that your body is trying to rid itself of damaged cells. Never try to peel the skin yourself; let it come off naturally. Learn more about treating a sunburn below.
What You Can Do
Check yourself: No matter your risk, examine your skin;head-to-toe once a month to identify potential skin cancers early. Take note of existing moles or lesions that grow or change. Learn how to check your skin here.
When in doubt, check it out. Because melanoma can be so dangerous once it advances, follow your instincts and visit your doctor if you see a spot that just doesnt seem right.
Keep in mind that while important, monthly self-exams are not enough. See your dermatologist at least once a year;for a professional skin exam.
If youve had a melanoma, follow up regularly with your doctor once treatment is complete. Stick to the schedule your doctor recommends so that you will find any recurrence as early as possible.
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