Important facts about skin cancer

1.     Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and more common than you think.   

·       About 3.5 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

·       It is estimated that in 2015, melanoma (a more severe type of skin cancer) will account for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer.

·       Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined.

·       1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their life.

·       About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers are caused by excessive sun exposure (ultraviolet radiation).

·       Actinic keratosis is the most common precancer; it affects more than 58 million Americans.

·       40-50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once in their life.

2.     There are three main types of skin cancer.

·       Basal cell carcinoma (most common type)

·       Squamous cell carcinoma

·       Melanoma (most deadly)

3.     Actinic keratosis – a rough, scaly skin patch that develops from years of sun exposure - is a potential “precancer”. If left untreated, it can turn into squamous cell carcinoma.

4.     Major risk factors for skin cancer:

·       Fair skin/lighter natural skin color

·       Moles

·       Family history of skin cancer or a personal history of skin cancer

·       Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure from the sun, or indoor tanning. (UV radiation is a proven human carcinogen)

·       History of sunburns

·       Skin that burns easily, gets red easily, or becomes painful in the sun, freckles

·       Being male

5.     Signs and symptoms of skin cancer

·       Any change in your skin (i.e. change in size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, a new growth)

·       Change in a particular area of the skin (becomes scaly or rough, may bleed or ooze)

·       A skin sore develops that does not heal

·       Abnormal pigmentation that spreads beyond border of skin patch, growth, or spot (i.e. dark coloring that spreads beyond border of a mole or spot)

·       Change in sensation on part of the skin (i.e. becomes itchy, tender, or painful)

6.     Skin cancer is preventable

·       Stay in the shade, especially when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest (between 10am and 4pm)

·       Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 or higher daily. Apply every two hours. Use higher, water-resistant SPF if you plan to be outside for a long time.

·       Wear a large hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

·       Avoid indoor tanning beds.

·       Check out your skin once a month to monitor for any changes.

·       Get an annual skin exam.