SKIN CANCER & PREVENTION
Skin Cancers & Pre-Cancers
Pre-Cancers: Actinic Keratoses
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are also known as precancers since if left untreated they can turn into Squamous Cell Carcinomas (SCC). They are very common patches of red or pink, rough, sun-damaged skin. The texture is often compared to that of sandpaper. They result from long-standing exposure to sun or tanning beds.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is a common type of skin cancer caused by UV rays in the sun or tanning beds that are typically found on areas of the skin that are more exposed to the sun like the head, neck, face, hands, and legs.
Squamous Cells frequently develop from Actinic Keratoses.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common skin cancer and also the most common cancer seen in humans worldwide.
It can take on a variety of appearances but most often consists of a solitary shiny, pink bump that is slow-growing and may be fragile and bleeds easily.
Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer that arises from pigment-containing cells called melanocytes. It is most commonly found in sun-exposed areas that have suffered from intense exposure to UV light. Early warning signs of melanoma include any new lumps or bumps to the skin, or any old moles that are changing over time (getting bigger, changing color).
How to Check Your Moles
The ABCDE's of Evaluating Moles
Moles should be symmetric, not asymmetric when you cut them in half.
Moles should be round or oval and not have irregular borders.
Moles should be one color, not multiple colors in the same mole or darker than the other moles on your body.
Moles should be smaller than a pencil eraser and should not be growing in size. They should also not be Different than your other moles. What we like to call the “ugly duckling mole” that does not fit your group of moles.
Moles should not be changing in color size or shape.
SKIN CANCER FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I BE CHECKED?
We recommend at least yearly skin exams for most people where our trained providers will look at you head to toe. If you have had a skin cancer already, we may want to see you more frequently.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I AM AT RISK FOR SKIN CANCER?
You are more at risk if you have had a lot of unprotected sun exposure, had a blistering sunburn, frequented tanning beds, are fair with blond hair and blue eyes or have a family history of skin cancer.
ARE ALL SKIN CANCERS THE SAME?
Skin cancers are not the same because they come from different components of the skin. Melanoma comes from your melanocytes or pigment producing cells, while squamous cell carcinomas come from your keratinocytes.
CAN ONE TYPE OF SKIN CANCER TURN INTO ANOTHER TYPE?
Although a skin cancer cannot turn into a different type of skin cancer, you are more at risk for developing any skin cancer after you have been diagnosed with one.
HOW CAN I PREVENT SKIN CANCER?
A lot of the sun damage to your skin may have been done in your early years, but it’s never too late.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen and reapply regularly
- Avoid peak sun hours (between 10am-2pm)
- Wear a broad-rimmed hat and UPF clothing
- Use a medical-grade topical antioxidant to protect your skin and prevent further damage
- Use a retinoid at night to improve cellular turnover and improve damaged skin
Always be sure to do at-home self skin exams in addition to your yearly skin exam with a dermatologist. Click here to schedule your yearly exam.