Skin cancer is a scary diagnosis, but if caught early, skin cancer can be effectively treated and eradicated. It’s vital that you get regular skin cancer screenings so that any skin cancer is detected early and treated immediately. Learn the important statistics related to skin cancer, as well as what a skin cancer screening involves and what the results could mean for you.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with one in five Americans being diagnosed with skin cancer during their lifetime. The American Academy of Dermatology provides other vital statistics. Approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. Skin cancer can affect anyone regardless of skin color, but people with darker skin often have their skin cancer diagnosed at later stages, when it is harder to treat, causing melanoma in those patients more likely to be fatal. The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma and are highly treatable if caught early. The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma, leading to approximately 20 Americans dying from melanoma every day. However, the five year survival rate for patients whose melanoma is caught and treated before it reaches the lymph nodes is 99 percent.
With these both grim and hopeful statistics, it is important for you to know if you fall into any high risk groups. The Mayo Clinic identifies a number of skin cancer risk factors. Your are more likely to develop skin cancer if you have fair skin that burns easily or lighter hair. The amount of sun and light you are exposed to also increases your chance of getting skin cancer, including the number of times you’ve been sunburned, your use of tanning beds, living in sunny or high-altitude climates, or simply having high exposure to the sun. Your health and family history can also put you in high risk groups. A history of abnormal moles or rough and scaly pre-cancerous skin lesions called actinic keratoses are risk factors, as is a history of previous skin cancer. If your family has a history of skin cancer, you have an increased chance of developing it too.
The first line of defense in skin cancer detection is yourself. The American Academy of Dermatology reports that about half of melanomas are self-detected. You know your body better than anyone. Regularly do a skin cancer check with full-length and hand mirrors to look for these common signs of skin cancer: areas on your skin that itch, bleed, or change; a small, pearly bump; a rough, scaly patch. You should also keep an eye on your moles to check for possible development of melanoma. You can use the ABCDE’s of melanoma detection: asymmetry of the mole, uneven borders, color that varies, a diameter bigger than a pencil eraser, a mole or skin lesion that evolves in shape, color, or size.
If you find anything suspicious or questionable on your body during a self-exam, make an appointment with your dermatologist. You will be able to quickly receive treatment for melanoma and other types of skin cancer, drastically increasing your odds of eradicating the cancer. You should also schedule a yearly screening with your dermatologist. The screening are usually quick, only lasting 10-15 minutes. You will probably be given a hospital gown for modesty and can choose to not have your genitals or buttocks examined. The rest of your body, head to toe, will be checked, including your scalp and between your fingers and toes. If your doctor finds something suspicious he or she will determine if the spot should be monitored, biopsied, or removed. The biopsy can take place during the appointment, and many removals can also be done during your screening appointment also. If your spot needs to be monitored, your dermatologist may take pictures so any changes can be detected.
Get in touch with Vanguard Dermatology in the greater New York City area. The knowledgeable dermatologists at Vanguard can perform skin cancer screenings, discuss preventative measures, and create treatment plans if a diagnosis is made. Don’t delay.