BACKGROUND: Skin cancer is extremely common and will typically appear on areas of the skin exposed to sun, although skin cancer can also develop in areas that hardly or never are touched by sunlight. Skin cancer has three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma; there are also a few uncommon types of skin cancer such as Kaposi sarcoma. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com) Each year there are about 2 million cases of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma found in the United States. Melanoma is the most serious out of the three, but is also less common with an estimated 75,000 cases of melanoma in 2012. (Source: www.cancer.org)
RISK FACTORS: Certain factors place people at a higher risk of developing skin cancer. These risk factors include:
- Fair skin and hair – People with light colored skin and blond or red hair may have less pigment in their skin, meaning less protection from ultraviolet rays.
- Excessive sun exposure – Spending a lot of time in the sun without sunscreen or other protection can increase your risk of skin cancer; tanning beds can also increase this risk.
- Family history of skin cancer – Sometimes your genes can play a role in your risk of skin cancer, so if immediate family members had skin cancer it may mean you have a higher risk as well.
- Moles – Large or abnormal moles are more likely than others to become cancerous, so if you naturally have a lot of them this could increase your risk of skin cancer. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)
PREVENT SKIN CANCER: The best ways to prevent skin cancer are to protect your skin when going outside in the sun. Using sunscreen, hats, or covering up when you know you will be in the sun for long periods of time is important for avoiding skin cancer. People should also avoid using tanning beds since the UV rays increase the risk of skin cancer, especially if they are fair skinned. Finally, regularly check your skin for abnormal skin lesions or moles and go to your doctor if there are any concerns.
MELAFIND: The new device called MelaFind will help doctors detect melanoma by using a handheld attachment around the size of a blow dryer that emits a light which goes below the surface of the skin and takes multicolored images to show the depth and shape of moles and/or other skin growths. In a study involving 1,300 patients, the new device correctly identified 10% of non-cancerous growths compared to doctors who only correctly identified them about four percent of the time. Currently the device is only FDA approved for use by dermatologists on skin growths that do not have obvious signs of cancer. (Source: www.huffingtonpost.com)