It’s Melanoma, Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month!
The month of May is dedicated to skin cancer detection and prevention, in hopes of decreasing the number of cancer diagnoses in the United States. Although it is not the most common form of cancer, Melanoma is responsible for causing the most deaths. Its occurrence, however, has led both physicians and patients to put prevention into practice.
Of course, it is possible for skin cancer to appear even if you have done everything in your power to keep it away, but even so, that should not stop you from being proactive about your skin’s health. There are several risks associated with skin cancer that you should look out for as you carry out your everyday life.
Once you have assessed the risks that affect you primarily, protecting your skin from harmful factors will ensure that you don’t receive a skin cancer diagnosis. If you understand the signs and symptoms of a cancerous lesion, then you can treat it before it turns into a more serious condition.
Treatment for skin cancer varies based on its stage, and there are several options available that can reduce or eliminate skin cancer. Although procedures are available to eradicate skin cancer from your body, the most efficient solution is to prevent its occurrence in the first place.
There is a lot to learn about skin cancer and your susceptibility to the disease. With an understanding of how the cancer works and the activities that you engage in that contribute to its onset, you can remain healthy.
Are You At Risk for Skin Cancer?
Many people tend to believe that skin cancer only occurs if you spend too much time in the sun, and while this may be true in some cases, there are plenty of other factors that contribute to a skin cancer diagnosis.
Your age, gender, skin type and genetic disposition are all grounds for skin cancer to appear. Combine each aspect with frequent sun exposure without protection, and you have the development of a life-threatening disease.
One of the best ways to determine whether you are at risk for skin cancer is to ask family members whether anyone has been diagnosed with the condition.
If you notice a pattern between the individuals in your family that have had skin cancer, it’s possible that you could be at risk through your heredity. If several members of your family have contracted skin cancer, your next step is to undergo a skin evaluation to better understand your likelihood of contracting the disease. Regular skin checks can keep track of your skin’s health and identify any curious lesions early on.
Other risk factors include your age, gender and skin type. Older individuals have a greater chance of developing skin cancer due to their continual exposure to UV radiation in their lifetime.
Those with fair skin also have an increased risk as sun damage penetrates and damages lighter skin with better ease, along with men, who are more likely to develop basal and squamous cell carcinomas.
Additionally, you are putting yourself at a higher risk of developing skin cancer if you smoke or expose yourself to various chemicals through your job or lifestyle. Long-term skin inflammation, whether due to internal or external factors can make it easier for cancer to develop.
Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer In All Stages
Skin cancer appears in three separate stages, all of which determine the form of treatment you receive. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and usually remains benign.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most prevalent form of skin cancer and is also considered a benign tumor; however, it is more likely to penetrate deeper into the skin’s surrounding tissues and spread.
Melanoma is the least common, but most dangerous form of skin cancer if it is not caught early on. The tumors develop within the melanocytes and quickly spread to other regions of the body.
Each form of skin cancer, whether it is benign or malignant, develops as a result of sun exposure but can be prevented if you remain vigilant about your body and environment. Preventative tactics are essential if you want to maintain the health of your skin.
The most important step you can take to reducing your risk of skin cancer is to avoid the sun as much as possible, which sounds impossible, but should be taken seriously. Seeking the shade, wearing sunglasses and hats and staying out of tanning beds will protect some of the most sensitive areas of your skin.
Avoiding the sun also includes the generous use of sunscreen several times per day. Applying sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher will keep the sun from penetrating through your skin.
Even if you take protective measures and keep your skin out of harm’s way, it’s still vital to check your skin for spots, both new and old. Moles that seemingly appear out of nowhere are a cause for concern as well as older moles that begin to change color, shape and size.
If you notice any irregularities in your skin, contact your skin care specialist and schedule an examination.
What Treatment Options Are Available?
Melanoma, on the other hand, may require surgical removal.
Depending on the particular form of skin cancer that you exhibit, you may benefit from one or more procedures. Benign forms of skin cancer, like basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma, will respond to less invasive procedures that keep the tumor from spreading.
One of the most efficient solutions for skin cancer is Mohs’ micrographic surgery, which removes diseased tissue, layer by layer, until the cancer is no longer present. Mohs’ surgery is the most precise treatment method for eliminating cancerous lesions, as it ensures that healthy tissues are spared. A surgeon uses a microscope to examine the skin as they excise each layer. Once there is no longer any detection of cancer, the surgery stops. Mohs’ surgery has the highest cure rate and allows for the immediate reconstruction of the tissue.
Other treatment options include excision surgery, electrosurgery, cryosurgery and radiation. One or more procedures may work for you based on the stage of skin cancer you exhibit.
Use the month of May and the rest of this year to protect your skin against skin cancer, and if you want more information about signs and symptoms of the disease, contact Princeton Plastic Surgeons at 609-910-1114 to schedule a consultation.