William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. More than two million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year alone.
Cancer is a group of harmful cells that grow out of control.
There are three types:
Basal Cell is the most common skin cancer. It usually involves the face, ears, back of hands, shoulders and arms. Crusting and bleeding in the center. Basal cell carcinoma usually affects adults over 40 years of age. It is easily treated with surgery or radiation.
Squamous Cell is the second most common skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma typically appears as a scaling, thickened red patch on sun-exposed skin. When not treated it may develop into a large mass.
Malignant Melanoma is the least common but most deadly skin cancer. Melanoma often metastasizes and can potentially cause death. Most malignant melanomas are brown or black lesions, but a few are pink, red or fleshy in color.
- Most skin cancer is caused by too much unprotected exposure to the sun.
- Light or red haired, blue or light eyed and fair-skinned people are at the greatest risk for getting skin cancer.
- Other factors include smoking, HPV infections and genetics or family history.
- Try to stay out of the sun.
- If you must go in the sun, wear protective clothing such as a hat or long sleeves.
- Wear sunglasses.
- Use a sunscreen of over 30 SPF to help block the sun’s harmful rays. Reapply the sunscreen often.
- Never use a tanning bed or sun lamp.
- Avoid the use of tobacco products.
- Check your skin regularly. Early detection increases your chance of survival.
- Get a skin cancer screening yearly.
Signs and Symptoms:
- Changes in the skin including a small sore that does not heal, or heals and then returns.
- Ulcering of the skin or discolored skin.
- A change in an existing mole or a new growth. Changing shape (jagged edges or growth) or changing color.
- Skin cancer can be scaly or crusty and has a broad color range: flesh colored, pink, red, brown, black or blue.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body but is more common on skin exposed to the sun. See a doctor if you have any of these signs or symptoms. A biopsy can be performed to positively identify the skin cancer. Treatments depend on the type, location, age of the patient and whether it is a primary or a recurrent cancer. Common treatment is surgery to remove the cancer. If it is a malignant cancer, treatment may include radiation or chemotherapy, which consists of special creams or lotions which kill the cancer cells.