Skin cancer is becoming more and more prevalent. It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime. Most of these skin cancers are treatable and curable if caught early.
Dr. Kittridge preforms very thorough screening exams of skin and mucosa (mucous membranes of mouth, eyes, genitals) using bright overhead lighting and a specialized device called a dermatoscope. She teaches her patients how to identify skin cancer by doing monthly self skin exams and how to protect themselves from developing skin cancers. There are many types of skin cancers, each of which may present differently. It is important to note that most lesions on the skin are not cancerous, but only a board-certified dermatologist is best qualified in making that determination.
Melanoma can present as a new or changing mole on the skin. In fact 70% of melanomas arise on normal skin and only 30% arise within a pre-existing mole. Ninety percent of melanomas are flat with the skin emphasizing the need to look at the back side of the body when doing self skin exams, as you will not always feel a new concerning growth. The ABCDEs can be used to detect a melanoma when preforming skin exams at home. A mole with an Asymmetric shape, an uneven Border, a change in Color, a Diameter larger than a pencil eraser in size or that has Evolved over time is concerning for a malignant melanoma. Individuals of any age or any skin type can develop a melanoma in nearly any area of the body.
This type of skin cancer is increasing in frequency in the United States and is the most common cancer in young adults age 25-29. Tanning bed use increases your risk of melanoma by 74%.
BASAL CELL CARCINOMA
Basal cell carcinoma is the most frequently occurring type of skin cancer. Almost half of Americans will have either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma at least once by the age of 65. Basal cell skin cancers typically appear as a red patch, pink growth, shiny bump, or a scar. They are often described as “sores that won’t heal.”
SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA
Squamous cell carcinomas can present as a thick, rough, scaly patch that may bleed easily. Squamous cell skin cancers can also look like an open sore or a wart.
Other less common skin cancers do exist that can be a detriment to your health if not identified early. Any new growth or changing growth on the skin should prompt an evaluation with Dr. Kittridge.
SKIN CANCER PREVENTION, SCREENING, DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you have a skin exam preformed yearly by a trained physician. Board-certified dermatologists have the most training and experience with identifying and treating skin cancers.
Wearing sun screen and protective gear anytime you are exposed to sun is important to preventing skin damage and skin cancer. Though people with fair skin that burn easily are at higher risk for developing skin cancer, everyone is at risk for skin cancer. Regardless of your skin tone, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to protect your skin from overexposure. Protecting your skin from extensive sun exposure can also help prevent wrinkles, sunspots, and uneven skin tone.
PROTECTING YOUR SKIN IN THE SUN
- Limit direct sunlight during the hours of 10am and 4pm when the UV rays are strongest.
- Monitor the UV Index to prevent overexposure on days when the Index is moderate or higher.
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen SPF on any exposed skin, and don’t forget to re-apply at least every 2 hours. The effectiveness of sunscreen depends on the SPF, which is the sun protection factor, and Dr. Kittridge recommends at least 50 broad-spectrum SPF that is 80 minute water resistant. Dr. Kittridge recommends higher SPF sunscreens based on data that have shown better sun protection with higher SPFs. Broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. In general, one shot glass size (1.0-1.5 oz) of sunscreen should be applied to sun exposed skin with each application. You should apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before outdoor exposure and reapply every 2 hours with normal activity. If you are swimming or sweating it is recommended that you reapply more frequently and after toweling dry.
- Wear UPF clothing (clothing with sun protection) and other protective gear, like a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses, to increase sun protection and decrease potential damage.
SKIN CANCER TREATMENT
Dr. Kittridge performs dermatologic surgery to treat many different skin cancers. The type of surgical procedure preformed is based on the type, size and location of skin cancer amongst other factors. Dr. Kittridge will discuss your treatment options with you. Some skin cancers will require referral to a Mohs surgeon for best outcomes.