Skin Cancer Awareness Month
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and begins the unofficial start to warmer months with longer sun exposure in the northern hemisphere. Skin cancer is one of the most overlooked types of cancers. Albeit the most common cancer in the United States, skin cancer is often forgot about. Each year there will be over five million cases of skin cancer.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is when cancerous cells develop on the dermal and epidermis layer of the skin. These cells are malignant and create mole-like tumors in appearance. The most common form of skin cancer is basal cell carcinoma. Melanoma is usually caught within the first or second stages. Melanoma may progress to stages three and four where the tumor builds angiogenesis blood vessels to connect directly to the bloodstream. During angiogenesis, the tumor will steal nutrients from the blood to feed the tumor. The tumor may likely spread elsewhere in the body to lymph nodes and other organs.
There are many celebrities who have had bouts with skin cancer. Famous people who have had skin cancer include; Anderson Cooper, Diane Keton, Khloe Kardashian, Melanie Griffith, and Ewan McGregor. Bob Marley famously died from melanoma where there was a mole on his toe. Places for cancerous moles that are often overlooked include; the scalp, the ears, back, the neck, eyelids and toes.
ABCDE- Identifying the Signs of Skin Cancer
ABCDE is a helpful mnemonic to help remember any significant changes in the development of skin cancer:
Area – Healthy moles are round in shape. Moles with an irregular shape are very suspicious.
Border – A healthy mole is circular. If the mole has an uneven border, this may be cause for alarm.
Color – A mole should be a nice deep brown color. If it has any discoloration such as red, white, pink, or deep black, it should be immediately looked at.
Diameter – Any mole that is larger than 3 millimeters in diameter should be checked.
Evolution – Closely monitoring moles is important. A mole may seemingly look harmless, but once there are any signs of the other four changes, please notify a physician.
If you have a mole that you think follows some of these irregular characteristics, please see a dermatologist right away.
Treating Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is first biopsied and sent to the lab for confirmation of a cancer diagnosis. A surgeon will normally remove the cancerous formation. Sometimes, chemo is recommended based on the diagnosis, but each case is dependent on its own circumstances.
Tips on Avoid Skin Cancer
- Stay out of the sun during its harshest times of 10:00 – 4:00
- Wear sunscreen
- Do not burn – each burn increases skin cancer exposure
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours
- Get checked for moles that look suspicious
- Wear protective clothing, sunglasses, and hats
- Do self-skin checks every week
- Avoid tanning beds and UV light
- Keep babies out of the sun
Did this article make you feel more aware of the ways in which skin cancer grows? Do you know anyone who has or has had skin cancer? Comment below! Feel free to check out our other articles on disease awareness.