Skin cancer, one of the most common forms worldwide, continues to be a major concern for many. While most people know it’s important, there remains a lot of confusion around how to prevent it, detect it early, and treat it effectively. Let’s dive into some of the most frequently asked questions we get about skin cancer, and help give you a clearer understanding of this critical topic in skin health.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
There are three primary types of skin cancer:
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): The most common type, it arises from the basal cells of the skin and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.
According to one estimate, about 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the US (occurring in about 3.3 million Americans, as some people have more than one). About 8 out of 10 of these are basal cell cancers.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): Originating from squamous cells, this is less common than BCC but can be more aggressive.
Melanoma: While less common than the other two, melanoma is the most deadly because of its potential to spread to other parts of the body.
- UV light (regardless of skin color)
- Lighter skin color
- More common as you get older (can be seen in teenagers and up)
- Males (especially over age 55)
- History of trauma, injury or inflammation
- History of warts (HPV can induce malignant changes)
How can I prevent skin cancer?
The best prevention is protection. Here are some steps you can take:
Use sunscreen daily: A broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 should be applied even on cloudy days. The FDA still considers chemical sunscreens to be safe. The higher the number, the better the protection as most people do not put on enough sunscreen to achieve the protection number.
Avoid peak sun hours: The sun’s rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Limit your exposure during these times.
Wear protective clothing: Long-sleeved shirts, wide-brimmed hats, neck gaiters and sunglasses can be your best defense.
Regularly check your skin: Familiarize yourself with the appearance of your moles and watch for changes.
How often should I get a skin exam?
It’s recommended to perform monthly self-exams and visit a dermatologist annually for a professional skin check. However, if you have a history of skin cancer or other risk factors, we might suggest more frequent checks.
What changes in moles should I be concerned about?
Remember the ABCDE rule when examining moles:
- Borders (irregular or jagged)
- Color (multiple colors or change in color)
- Diameter (larger than a pencil eraser)
- Evolving (any change in size, shape, or color)
- Test your knowledge of the ABCs of Melanoma
If diagnosed with skin cancer, what treatment options are available?
Treatment options can vary depending on the type, location, and stage of skin cancer at the time if diagnosis:
Surgery: Removal of the tumor and some surrounding tissue.
Mohs surgery: Layer-by-layer removal, ensuring that all cancer cells are eliminated with a frozen section.
Topical treatments: Creams or gels that can treat certain skin cancers.
Radiation therapy: High-energy rays to kill or shrink cancer cells.
Immunotherapy or targeted therapy: Especially for advanced melanomas.
Are there any new advancements in the field of dermatology for skin cancer detection and treatment?
Indeed, the field of dermatology is continuously evolving. Advancements like digital dermoscopy allow for more accurate and early detection of skin changes. Treatments like immunotherapy, targeted therapy, and photodynamic therapy have shown promising results, especially in treating advanced skin cancers.
Is non-melanoma skin cancer less serious than melanoma?
While melanoma is more aggressive and potentially deadly, non-melanoma skin cancers like BCC and SCC should not be taken lightly. They are highly treatable when detected early, but if neglected, they can lead to disfigurement or other complications, including death.
How does skin cancer differ in adults and children?
While rare in children, skin cancer can manifest differently, often appearing less aggressive but can be just as dangerous. It’s essential to be aware and get any suspicious lesions checked, irrespective of age.
While skin cancer is a significant concern, being informed and proactive in its prevention and detection can make a world of difference. If you have further questions or concerns about your skin health, don’t hesitate to contact our office for a consultation.
Dr. David Kaplan is a leading dermatologist at Adult and Pediatric Dermatology Kansas City, dedicated to providing expert care in all skin-related matters. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call our office today at (913) 469-1115 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kaplan and the team at Adult and Pediatric Dermatology.