Stages Of Skin Cancer
If you receive a skin cancer diagnosis, the next step is to identify its stage.
Staging is how doctors determine whether the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Staging is common with melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma, because these cancers are more likely to spread.
Typically, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas dont involve staging. These skin cancers are easily treated and dont usually spread. However, your doctor may recommend staging for larger lesions.
Staging is based on the size of the growth and whether it has high-risk features. High-risk features include:
- larger than 2 millimeters thick
- spreads into the lower levels of the skin
- spreads into the space around a nerve
- appears on the lips or ears
- appears abnormal under a microscope
Heres a general breakdown of skin cancer stages:
- Stage 0. The cancer hasnt spread to surrounding areas of the skin.
- Stage 1. The cancer is 2 centimeters across or less, with no high-risk features.
- Stage 2. The cancer is more than 2 cm across and has a least two high-risk features.
- Stage 3. The cancer has spread to the bones in the face or nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 4. The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or internal organs.
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.
Sunshine And Vitamin D
Vitamin D is vital for good health. Vitamin D is made in the skin with the help of sunlight. Sunlight is actually the main source of vitamin D, as there is very little found in the foods that we eat.
This means that to be healthy you need a certain amount of sun exposure. There is concern that some people may go to the extreme of avoiding the sun altogether and then become deficient in vitamin D. The aim is to enjoy the sun sensibly, so as to make enough vitamin D, whilst not increasing the risk of skin cancer.
It is estimated that, to prevent deficiency of vitamin D, we need 2-3 sun exposures per week in the summer months . Each exposure should last 20-30 minutes and be to bare arms and face. Short frequent periods of time in the sun are much more beneficial than long periods of time. It needs to be exposure to direct sunlight and not through a window. It is not the same as suntanning and sunburn should be avoided at all costs.
The information above mainly applies to the skin cancer types basal cell carcinomas and, to a lesser extent, melanoma.
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Avoid Using Tanning Beds And Sunlamps
Many people believe the UV rays of tanning beds are harmless. This is not true. Tanning lamps give off UV rays, which can cause long-term skin damage and can contribute to skin cancer. Tanning bed use has been linked with an increased risk of melanoma, especially if it is started before a person is 30. Most dermatologists and health organizations recommend not using tanning beds and sun lamps.
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.
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What Is Involved In A Skin Cancer Check
When you come in for a skin cancer investigation, you will be required to undress to your undergarments for a complete examination. The procedure requires your doctor to methodically assess every section of your skin, stopping at every mole or freckle that they think might be even remotely suspicious. They will use a sophisticated magnifying device called a dermatoscope, which shines polarised light when and where required to aid in diagnosis. At our clinics, all suspicious moles or freckles are photographed under high magnification and immediately transferred to the doctors computer for further analysis.
Youll be able to get dressed once your entire body has been screened as part of the skin cancer scan. Soon after, your doctor will discuss and show you the magnified images on the screen if necessary and will advise on a further course of action.
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You Can Find Skin Cancer On Your Body
The best way to find skin cancer is to examine yourself. When checking, you want to look at the spots on your skin. And you want to check everywhere from your scalp to the spaces between your toes and the bottoms of your feet.
If possible, having a partner can be helpful. Your partner can examine hard-to-see areas like your scalp and back.
Getting in the habit of checking your skin will help you notice changes. Checking monthly can be beneficial. If you have had skin cancer, your dermatologist can tell you how often you should check your skin.
People of all ages get skin cancer
Checking your skin can help you find skin cancer early when its highly treatable.
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Get To Know Your Skin
Skin cancer, including melanoma, is curable if spotted early. A careful skin exam may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer .
- It’s important to say it more than once: Examine your skin once every month. Get to know your moles and birthmarks. And look for any abnormal skin growth and any change in the color, shape, size, or appearance of a skin growth.
- Check for any area of skin that does not heal after an injury.
- Have your doctor check your skin during any other health exams. Most experts recommend having your skin examined regularly.
- Bring any suspicious skin growths or changes in a mole to the attention of your doctor.
“Individuals who may be at higher risk for skin cancer should have a yearly full skin examination by a primary care provider or dermatologist,” Smith said. “People with lots of moles , someone who has already had skin cancer, anyone with a history of melanoma in a blood relative, those with fair skin and lots of sunburns or sun exposure in childhood, a history of tanning bed use, or those with a weakened immune system due to organ transplant medications or certain types of cancers are at a heightened risk of skin cancer.”
Take Action No Matter What Color Your Skin Is
Skin cancer can happen in all ethnicities, including persons of color, says Yolanda Lenzy, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and licensed cosmetologist in Chicopee, MA. In fact, reggae star Bob Marley died from malignant melanoma on his foot.
While its true that more skin pigmentation might lower your risk of developing skin cancer, research shows that people of color die from melanoma at a higher rate than white people. On top of that, consider what sun damage can do to your skin overall, says Susan Chon, M.D., professor of dermatology at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. That may be dyspigmentation, wrinkles, or uneven color.
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Find A Free Skin Cancer Screening
Skin cancer screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic
Some communities are now allowing skin cancer screenings at community events, in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their local governing bodies.
If your community does not currently allow skin cancer screenings, we encourage you to perform regular skin self-exams using the ABCDEs of melanoma. If you notice any new spots on your skin, spots that are different from others, or spots that are changing, itching, or bleeding, contact a board-certified dermatologist.
When caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable. Find out if there is a free skin cancer screening near you.
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What Are The Claims About Skin Cancer And Apple Cider Vinegar
Various internet sites and blogs claim that apple cider vinegar can help treat skin cancers, including basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, melanomas, and precancerous lesions . Other sources offer tutorials for removing moles or skin tags.
Most of these sites provide personal, anecdotal accounts from people who say the vinegar cured their skin cancer.
Some of the sources encourage patients to drink apple cider vinegar, while others suggest applying it directly to the skin cancer. Many recommend doing both.
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Rate Of Skin Cancer Is On The Rise
Rates of all skin cancers are rising, and melanoma rates have been rising rapidly in the United States in the last 30 years, said Dr. Peebles. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in women age 15 to 29 years old.
And women younger than 30 years old are six times more likely to develop melanoma if they tan indoors versus those who do not, Dr. Peebles added.
One of the interesting things to me about skin cancer is that we are not saying a whole lot of different things to decrease the risk and protect the skin, said Dr. Jones. Yet compliance and follow through is obviously not being heard, in some ways, because the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise.
Fact: A Little Sunscreen Won’t Cut It
The average sunscreen user applies only 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount, according to the American Academy of Dermatology . A recent study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, for example, found that among 2,000 people offered free sunscreen at booths placed throughout a state fair, only 33 percent of those who used it applied it to all of their exposed skin. The rest focused only on their faces and arms, leaving other areas exposed.
The AAD recommends applying 1 ounce, or the amount that would fill a shot glass, to cover your entire body at least 15 minutes before going outside.
Not sure how to choose the best sunscreen? Our sunscreen buying guide can help.
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Cover Your Arms And Legs
Long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can protect you from UV rays. Although light-colored, loosely woven clothing is popular during the warm months, you may be surprised to learn that garments that are dark-colored or made from tightly woven fabric give more protection against the sun. The tightly woven fabric physically blocks the suns rays, while the dark color absorbs them. Also, wet clothing offers much less UV protection than dry.
A typical T-shirt has a SPF rating lower than 15, so dont rely solely on clothing use other types of protection as well, such as sunscreen, says Snyder.Several companies sell clothing with ultraviolet protection factor , a sun protective factor built into the clothing, which includes swimwear, T-shirts and hats.
There Are Several Types Of Skin Cancer
The most common types of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, which forms in the squamous cells and basal cell carcinoma, which forms in the basal cells. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma are also called nonmelanoma skin cancers. Melanoma, which forms in the melanocytes, is a less common type of skin cancer that grows and spreads quickly.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most common in areas exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms.
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Skin Pigment And Ability To Tan
Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight affects everybody’s skin to some extent, but the skin’s response varies widely from person to person. Peoples’ sensitivity to the sun varies according to the amount of pigment in the skin and the skin’s 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 skin’s 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
Skin Cancer Can Happen To Anyone
One myth about skin cancer is that it is a disease that afflicts only people with light-colored skin.
It can happen to anyone, regardless of skin color, said Dr. Peebles. While white people have higher rates of melanoma compared to other races or ethnicities, for instance, the annual incidence rate of melanoma is still five per 100,000 in Hispanics, and one per 100,000 among Black people.
Skin cancer in skin of color is often diagnosed in later stages when its more difficult to treat, Dr. Peebles added, noting that individuals of color are less likely than their white counterparts to survive melanoma and are also more prone to skin cancer in areas not commonly exposed to the sun, including the palms, soles, groin area, inside the mouth and under the nails.
Also, when were thinking of some different health disparities, there have been several studies showing that there may be an increased risk of skin cancer in some sexual minority men, said Dr. Peebles. We think that has a lot to do with disproportionate indoor tanning behaviors in that population, but theres still much more to learn on that topic.
Dont Put Off Appointments
The sooner you see a dermatologist, the sooner you can tackle whatever issues come up together, says Dr. Chon. Thats especially important when it comes to skin cancer. When its little and its just starting, its super easy to take care of, she points out. If its early, its much, much better.
She says some patients worry that theyre overreacting and wasting her time if a spot turns out to be benign, but thats not true. Thats my job, and thats why Im here, she says. Theres no harm in getting it checked. Plus, unlike some other health screenings, skin checks are pretty straightforward and require no extra prep ahead of time.
Skin Cancer Is The Most Common Cancer In The United States
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer in the United States. The number of new cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer appears to be increasing every year. These nonmelanoma skin cancers can usually be cured.
The number of new cases of melanoma has been increasing for at least 40 years. Melanoma is more likely to spread to nearby tissues and other parts of the body and can be harder to cure. Finding and treating melanoma skin cancer early may help prevent death from melanoma.
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Different Types Of Cancer Start In The Skin
Skin cancer may form in basal cells or squamous cells. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer. They are also called nonmelanoma skin cancer. Actinic keratosis is a skin condition that sometimes becomes squamous cell carcinoma.
This summary is about basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the skin, and actinic keratosis. See the following PDQ summaries for information on melanoma and other kinds of cancer that affect the skin:
Follow The Abcdes Of Skin Cancer
A is for asymmetry, said Dr. Jones. That means, if you draw a line down the middle of the mole, one sides different than the other.
B stands for border, so thinking about how smooth and even the borders are, said Dr. Peebles. If you have a nice round circular mole that’s often a good sign as opposed to a really jagged and curved mole that could be more concerning.
C stands for color. Normally we like to see moles that have a fairly even color to thembasically a smooth, even, consistent shade of brown or maybe a couple different shades, Dr. Peebles said. But when we start seeing a variety of different colors in the same lesionshades of red, black and yellowthats definitely something that were going to be worried about.
D stands for diameter of six millimeters or about the size of a pencil eraser, but there are melanomas smaller than that and there are benign moles much larger than that, said Dr. Jones. And then E is evolving or changing. If youre doing monthly exams, people will begin to start noticing differences in appearance.