Skin cancer is the most common cancer, accounting for more than 50 percent of all cancers. There are two classifications of skin cancer: melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers.
Melanoma is less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but it is far more dangerous, accounting for 80 percent of deaths from skin cancer.
Melanomas can occur anywhere on the skin, but are more likely to develop in certain locations such as the trunk (men) and legs (women).
Melanoma, like basal cell and squamous cell cancers, is often curable in its early stages. Yet, it is much more likely than basal or squamous cell cancer to spread to other parts of the body.
Nonmelanoma cancers (usually basal cell and squamous cell cancers) rarely spread to other parts of the body), so they are generally considered e less worrisome and are treated differently than melanoma.
Skin Cancer: What to Look For
Self-examination is important for early detection of skin cancer. We also recommend that you have an annual full body exam by your physician.
When examining your skin, think of the ABCD rule, which is a helpful way to differentiate a normal mole from one that may be melanoma. The following are possible signs of melanoma and should be brought to the attention of your physician (keep in mind that not all melanomas fit the ABCD rule):
- Asymmetry: one half of the mole does not match the other half
- Border Irregularity: the edges of the mole are irregular, ragged, blurred, or notched
- Color: varying colors in the mole. such as shades of tan, brown, or black, and sometimes patches of red, blue, or white
- Diameter: a mole is larger than 6 millimeters (about 1⁄4 inch or about the size of a pencil eraser); in recent years, doctors are finding more melanomas between 3 and 6 millimeters
About Sun Safety
There are precautions you can take all year round to protect yourself and your family.
- Limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. -- 4 p.m. This is when the sun's rays are the strongest
- Don't forget to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you are swimming or sweating
- Most skin professionals recommend using sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV-protective lenses
- Take extra precaution with your children's skin. Experts warn that just one severe burn during childhood can increase your risk of skin cancer
Some medications can cause you to be more sun-sensitive. Ask your physician or pharmacist about the medications you are taking.
For more information about the Melanoma/Skin Program, please call 980-442-2000 or 800-804-9376.