What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells and occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations or genetic defects that lead the skin cells to multiple rapidly and form malignant tumors.
Are there different types of skin cancer?
Yes. More specifically, there are three:
- Basel cell carcinoma (BCC): This is the most common type of skin cancer and frequently develops in people who have fair skin, yet they can occur in people with darker skin. BCCs look like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or pinkish patch of skin. They are most common on the head, neck and arms, but can form on the chest, abdomen, and legs as well. An early diagnosis is key because if left untreated, BCC can grow into the nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): This is the second most common type of skin cancer and, like BCC, people who have light skin are most likely to develop it. However, it can develop in darker skinned people. SCC looks like a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then reopens. SCC can form on the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, and back. Early diagnoses and treatment can stop SCC from spreading to other parts of the body.
- Melanoma: This is the deadliest for of skin cancer. It frequently develops in a mole or suddenly appears as a new dark spot on the skin. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.
How to identify skin cancer and atypical moles
Actinic keratoses (AK) are dry, scaly patches or spots that are precancerous growths. People who get AKs are usually fair skinned, and most people see their first AKs after 40 years of age because they tend to develop after years of sun exposure or tanning.
AKs usually form on the head, neck, hands, and forearms. AKs can progress to SCC, so early diagnoses is important.
To identify skin cancer, know your ABCD and Es:
Asymmetry: Atypical moles are ones that are not symmetrical, meaning if you were to draw a line through the middle of the mole, the two sides would not match. A warning sign for melanoma is when a mole does not match.
Border: A benign (noncancerous) mole has smooth, even borders. Melanomas are uneven, and the edges may be scalloped or notched.
Color: Most benign moles are all one color, usually a shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning sign of melanoma. Melanomas can be more than one shade of brown, tan, black, red, white, or blue.
Diameter: Benign moles are usually small. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the eraser on your pencil tip, but may be smaller when first detected.
Evolving: Benign moles look the same over time. When a mole starts to evolve or change in any way, that can be a sign of melanoma. Any change, whether in size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, itching, or crusting is a sign to call your doctor.
Causes of skin cancer and tips to prevent skin cancer
There are numerous causes of skin cancer, including:
- Sun exposure: Ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is the main environmental cause of most skin cancers.
- Tanning beds
- Previous skin cancers: If you have had skin cancer before, you’re at risk of getting another one. This could be in the same place or somewhere new.
- Lowered immunity
- Exposure to chemicals: Being exposed to chemicals at the workplace is another possible cause of skin cancer. Be sure to wear protective clothing and use protective equipment. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using chemicals at home.
To prevent skin cancer, one should always:
- Seek shade especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Do not burn.
- Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
- Cover up exposed skin when in the sun and wear broad brimmed hats.
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher when out in the sun, even if it’s cloudy. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Examine your skin head to toe every month.
- See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen should be used on babies over the age of six months.
Treatment options for skin cancer
There are different types of treatment for patients with non-melanoma and melanoma. Generally six types of standard treatment are used:
- Radiation therapy
- Photodynamic therapy
- Biologic therapy
- Targeted therapy
Choice of treatment is based on the tumor’s type, size, location, and depth of penetration, as well as the patient’s age and general health.
Treatment generally can be performed in a doctor’s office. A local anesthetic is used during most surgical procedures.
Reynolds Rapid Care
For immediate assessment of your skin cancer concern, call your primary care physician or head to Reynolds Rapid Care in the plaza across from Walmart in Moundsville. Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. No appointment is required.
Rapid Care accepts nearly all insurances and has a self-pay program if you don’t have insurance.
The providers at Rapid Care can assess your concern and then help you with the next step, which is going to your primary care provider for removal in their office. If you don’t have a primary care provider, we will be glad to assist you in finding one. Early detection and treatment are key so don’t delay!