Real Simple magazine has just published a very interesting article on skin cancer. Primarily focused on Squamous cell carcinoma, (SCC), and Basal cell carcinoma, (BCC), the publication quoted some pretty alarming statistics about these close cousins to Melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, SCC makes up about 20 per cent of skin cancer diagnoses in America, and BCC accounts for almost 80 percent, making it the most common form of skin cancer for both men and women.
The good news is that these cancers tend to grow slowly so as long as you go for regular (at least once a year) check-ups with your dermatologist, you are very likely to catch any problems in the early stages before anything becomes difficult to remove and requires extensive surgery.
Most often Moh’s micrographic surgery is used to remove trouble spots. This is where one thin layer is removed at a time until the tissue shows no sign of containing any cancerous cells. This is done as an outpatient procedure and once the tissue is clear, the procedure is complete. The great news is that Moh’s surgery is 98% successful. Once the site has healed there is very little sign that anything was ever amiss.
It really all starts with early sun protection and regular self examinations at home every month. The occurrence BCC’s and SCC’s has risen significantly in women under the age of 40. Indoor tanning is the biggest culprit but also incidental sun exposure on a daily basis. (Running errands, driving, walking short distances.) Another factor is the misconception that a covering of tinted moisturizer or make-up with an SPF15 will do the trick. Not even close. An SPF of at least 30 is an absolute must, regardless of weather and climate, and make-up, tinted or full, needs to be applied on top. Don’t forget the ears, back of the neck and chest. Very high SPF’s can irritate the skin and don’t offer a significant amount of extra protection but up to factor 45 works well and if you have sensitive skin, try a physical block that only contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
It is very easy to mistake these skin cancers for pimples, so here is what to look for. Painful or itchy lesions, pimples that erupt, bleed, heal and then return. Crusty patches that look like dry skin, are waxy or pearly in appearance, growths with elevated borders and indented centers. Bear in mind that no matter what your race or skin color, you have upwards of a 40 per cent chance of developing one of these cancers by the age of 65. And they do reoccur.
The other advantage of regular check-ups is that it will allow the dermatologist to keep an eye out for melanoma as well. All this scary stuff is so preventable. Always keep a large brimmed hat in the car and when driving, wear lightweight gloves to protect the hands and a sun-proofed scarf to protect the chest. Any time something looks suspicious, don’t wait to get it checked. It is worth that extra doctor’s visit to be on the safe side.