What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole or skin lesion or a change in an existing mole.
- Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears or neck, or as a flat pink, red or brown lesion on the trunk or arms and legs.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly flat lesion that may bleed and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
- Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump but can also be red or white. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.
When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCDE rule that tells you the signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry — the shape of one half doesn’t match the other
- Border — edges are ragged or blurred
- Color — uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue
- Diameter — A significant change in size , although any mole that is getting larger should be brought to the attention of your dermatologist many melanomas are being diagnosed at much smaller diameters.
- Evolving — any new spot or mole that is changing in color, shape or size or itches or bleeds.
Adopt Healthy Lifestyle To Reduce Cancer Risk
People must adopt healthy lifestyles to reduce the risk of cancers to maintain optimum health for as long as possible. I think that its vital that we all look at our overall health as a bigger picture, and try to make lifestyle changes which aid overall health such as quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, getting to a healthy weight, eating a varied and nutritious diet and protecting skin from the suns harmful UV rays using a broad spectrum SPF that is then reapplied regularly throughout the day.
Protecting skin from the suns damaging UV rays is a key part of the battle against skin cancer. Fortunately, skin protection in the form of SPF is better and more advanced than ever before, however, people continue to apply it too sparingly and not often enough.
To achieve maximum protection against UV radiation, sunscreen should be applied to everything thats being exposed to the sun, even the scalp. Guidelines suggest you should apply around two teaspoons of sunscreen for the head, arms and neck, and two tablespoons for your entire body, for example, when wearing a swimming costume. Its important not to miss hard-to-reach areas or areas such as fingers, toes, between toes and feet.
What Causes Basal And Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
While many risk factors for basal and squamous cell skin cancers have been found, its not always clear exactly how these factors might cause cancer.
Most basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers are caused by repeated and unprotected skin exposure to ultraviolet rays from sunlight, as well as from man-made sources such as tanning beds.
UV rays can damage the DNA inside skin cells. DNA is the chemical in each of our cells that makes up our genes, which control how our cells function. We usually look like our parents because they are the source of our DNA. But DNA affects more than just how we look.
Some genes help control when our cells grow, divide into new cells, and die:
- Genes that help cells grow, divide, and stay alive are called oncogenes.
- Genes that keep cell growth in check by slowing down cell division or causing cells to die at the right time are called tumor suppressor genes.
Cancers can be caused by DNA changes that keep oncogenes turned on, or that turn off tumor suppressor genes. These types of gene changes can lead to cells growing out of control.
Researchers dont yet know all of the DNA changes that result in basal or squamous cell skin cancer, but they have found that in many skin cancers the cells have changes in tumor suppressor genes.
These are not the only gene changes that play a role in the development of skin cancer. There are many others as well.
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Using Sunbeds Is Safer Than Tanning
Not true! Using sunbeds is not a safe way to get a tan.
They expose your skin to large amounts of UV rays that age your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. Getting a tan from a sunbed is not safer than a tan from being outdoors, even if done gradually.
The level of UV exposure from sunbeds can be up to 15 times higher than the midday Mediterranean sun. Because of this your risk of melanoma skin cancer is greater.
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What Does Skin Cancer Look Like
There are many different types of skin cancer . Each type looks different. Also, skin cancer in people with dark skin often looks different from skin cancer in people with fair skin. A change on the skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This may be any new growth on the skin, a sore that doesnt heal, or a change in an old growth.
If you notice a change on your skin, see your doctor. Dont wait until the change looks like the more advanced skin cancers in these photos.
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Skin Pigment And Ability To Tan
Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight affects everybodys skin to some extent, but the skins response varies widely from person to person. Peoples sensitivity to the sun varies according to the amount of pigment in the skin and the skins ability to tan.
Ultraviolet radiation causes tanning in two different ways: by immediate tanning and by delayed tanning. Immediate tanning causes the skin to darken in response to UVA. This darkening begins during the period of exposure, but fades within a few hours or days. The amount of tanning increases according to the skins natural darkness and previous amount of tanning.
Delayed tanning occurs two to three days after exposure to either UVA or UVB. It lasts from several weeks to months, and is maintained by repeated exposure to sunlight. With delayed tanning, the skin increases its production and distribution of dark pigment. The skin also becomes thicker. These changes can follow sunburning or develop gradually over a long period of repeated brief exposures to sunlight.
Some people burn easily after the first hour of sun exposure following winter or any period away from the sun. Other people, especially those with dark skin, rarely burn. This difference in reaction makes it possible to classify skin into one of six different types .
Table adapted from: SunSmart Victoria , Australia
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, typically a new mole, a new skin lesion or a change in an existing mole.
- Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly, or waxy bump on the face, or neck, or as a flat, pink/red- or brown-colored lesion on the trunk, arms or legs.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can appear as a firm, red nodule, or as a rough, scaly, flat lesion that may itch, bleed and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but can occur anywhere.
- Melanoma usually appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may resemble a normal mole, but usually has a more irregular appearance.
When looking for melanoma, think of the ABCDE rule that tells you the signs to watch for:
- Asymmetry: The shape of one half doesn’t match the other.
- Border: Edges are ragged or blurred.
- Color: Uneven shades of brown, black, tan, red, white or blue.
- Diameter: A significant change in size .
- Evolution: Changes in the way a mole or lesion looks or feels .
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Tanning Beds Increase Cancer Risk
According to the American Cancer Society, individuals who use tanning beds are more at risk of developing skin cancer than those who do not. Individuals who started indoor tanning before the age of thirty to thirty-five are most at risk of developing melanoma, which is considered to be one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. People who started using indoor tanning beds before the age of twenty-five have a greater risk of developing basal and squamous cell skin cancer as well.
What Changes In The Skin Occur Due To Exposure To The Sun
Exposure to sun causes most of the wrinkles and age spots on our faces. People think a glowing complexion means good health, but skin color obtained from being in the sun can actually speed up the effects of aging and increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes that we think of as a normal part of aging. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet light damages the fibers in the skin called elastin. When these fibers break down, the skin begins to sag, stretch, and lose its ability to go back into place after stretching. The skin also bruises and tears more easily in addition to taking longer to heal. So while sun damage to the skin may not be apparent when you’re young, it will definitely show later in life. The sun can also cause issues for your eyes, eyelids, and the skin around the eyes.
Changes in the skin related to sun exposure:
- Precancerous and cancerous skin lesions caused by loss of the skin’s immune function.
- Benign tumors.
- Fine and coarse wrinkles.
- Freckles discolored areas of the skin, called mottled pigmentation and sallowness, yellow discoloration of the skin.
- Telangiectasias, the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin.
- Elastosis, the destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles.
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How Can Uv Cause Skin Cancer
Too much UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds can damage the DNA in our skin cells. DNA tells our cells how to function. If enough DNA damage builds up over time, it can cause cells to start growing out of control, which can lead to skin cancer.
Anyone can develop skin cancer, but some people can have a higher risk, including people who burn more easily.
What Are The Main Obstacles To Fight Melanoma For Good
There are many obstacles in the way of finding a cure for melanoma. Toxicity with any cancer therapy is always an obstacle. How can we treat only the malignant cells in the body, leaving healthy cells untouched?
Also, cancer cells from one person to the next are all very different. Cancer cells in general are genetically modified to proliferate and survive and have different mechanisms in place that allow them to continue to grow and survive, fighting the effects of treatment. Better characterizing these cancer cell pathways will allow us to offer better therapies and possibly help us predict who will respond and who may not respond to different treatment regimens.
Optimal combinations of medications, dosing regimens and maintenance plans will all come to play as we optimize patient specific treatment for melanoma.
We also lack biomarkers or tests that can indicated if a patient is responding to treatment or not or even tell us quickly if the cancer is coming back or recurring.
The pathways are complicated, but these advances along with targeted therapy specific to each patient cancer characteristics is an exciting area of melanoma research. Optimal combinations of medications, dosing regimens and maintenance plans will all come to play as we optimize patient specific treatment for melanoma.
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How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed And Treated
Skin cancers are usually diagnosed by taking a biopsy from the suspected area. In the case of melanoma, the doctor might also check if there has been any spread to the lymph nodes.
Treatment for both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancer mainly consists of surgery. Surgery is usually curative for non-melanoma skin cancer and can be successful in melanoma skin cancer if found early enough. In the case of advanced melanoma skin cancer, additional treatment might be given, including drugs that target specific genetic changes.
If you suspect you might have skin cancer or have found any changes to your skin, please contact your GP as soon as possible to get it checked out.
Staying In The Sun Safely
In order to maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D, it is recommended to stay in the sun 15-30 minutes per day without sunscreen. Start for a few minutes and work up to 30. If your staying out in the sun for longer wearing a hat and light clothes would be a good idea to protect the skin from burning. If you are planning to be in the hot sun for longer than 30 minutes, it is a good to have some form a sun protection. If using a sunscreen make sure to use a non-toxic one. I recommend reading the ingredients to see the bottle lists any ones mentioned above.
The EWGs first choice for sun protection is Zinc Oxide. It provides full spectrum protection of UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens like Earthie Mamas Sunscreen , are the best choice in sunscreens. There are other reasons why you might want to switch over to a mineral based sunscreen, You can read more about that HERE.
Eating a healthy diet is also important to protect your skin from the sun. A diet high in antioxidant rich foods protects the skin from a sunburn as they act as a protective layer screening the sun from burning the skin. Antioxidants include berries, dark leafy greens, artichokes, green tea, dark chocolate and more.
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How Can I Protect Myself From Skin Cancer
Have your doctor check your skin if you are concerned about a change.Your doctor may take a sample of your skin to check for cancer cells.
Ask your doctor about your risk of skin cancer:
- Some skin conditions and certain medicines may make your skin more sensitive to damage from the sun.
- Medicines or medical conditions that suppress the immune system may make you more likely to develop skin cancer.
- Having scars or skin ulcers increases your risk.
- Exposure to a high level of arsenic increases your risk.
Stay out of the sun as much as you can. Whenever possible, avoid exposure to the sun from10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you work or play outside, then
- Try to wear long sleeves, long pants, and a hat that shades your face, ears, and neck with a brim all around.
- Use sunscreen with a label that says it is broad spectrum or is at least SPF 15 and can filter both UVA and UVB rays.
- Wear sunglasses that filter UV to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes.
- If you are concerned about having a low level of vitamin D from not being in the sun, talk with your doctor about supplements.
Dont use tanning beds, tanning booths, or sunlamps.
How Can I Help Prevent Skin Cancer
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can somewhat repair itself, especially with on-going sun protection. So, it’s 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 staying out of the sun. Follow these tips to help prevent skin cancer:
- Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater , zinc oxide , and iron oxide 20 minutes before sun exposure and every 2 hours thereafter, more if you are sweating or swimming. Check the label for directions.
- Select clothing, cosmetic products, and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection and a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and neck.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours . The UVA rays, which cause premature skin aging and initiate skin cancers, are out all day long.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18. As a parent, be a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child.
Why Are Sunscreen Ingredients So Important
The answer is because the conditions under which one is compelled to apply sunscreen are particularly stressful. The hot sunny weather causes the skin to perspire, and with open pores, the sunscreen lotion is easily absorbed into the skin. Therefore, the old saying is that if you cant eat it, you ought not to put it on your skin.
How Many Sunburns Does It Take To Get Skin Cancer
Any time your skin is tanned or burned by the sun, its a sign of damage. Thats why theres no such thing as a safe tan.
The more intense the sun exposure, and the more often you’re exposed, the greater the risk of developing skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, affecting 1 in 5 Americans, according to the American Cancer Society. There are several forms of the disease basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which generally turn up on sun exposed areas of the skin and are the easiest to cure.
Melanoma is the deadliest and most aggressive form. Not all melanomas are related to sun exposure, but most are.
How many sunburns does it take to increase your risk of skin cancer? Is just ONE a danger?
Watch the Ask a Doctor video with Dr. Natalie Azar for the answer.
And dont forget to give yourself a thorough body check, looking for the ABCDEs of skin cancer:
- A ASYMMETRY One half unlike the other half.
- B BORDER Irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
- C COLOR Varied from one area to another.
- D DIAMETER While melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm, they can be smaller.
- E EVOLVING A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest.
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