Skin Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends an annual skin examination by a physician in addition to a monthly self-examination. You should get to know the patterns of your moles, freckles and other markings so you will notice changes, new growth in spot size or a visible sore that does not heal. Have someone examine your back and neck or other areas of your skin that you are unable to examine easily. If you notice any of these types of signs you should talk to your doctor.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

ACS also warns that "for melanoma, the most important warning sign is a change in the size, shape or color of a mole or signs that its border is becoming more ragged. Other symptoms include scaling, bleeding, or change in the appearance of a bump or nodule; the spread of pigmentation beyond its borders; or a change in sensation, itchiness, or pain."

Causes of Melanoma

Normal skin cells are reproduced and old skin cells die and are sloughed off every day. Melanoma develops when something goes wrong in the skin cells that give color to the skin. When the DNA in these skin cells are damaged new cells may begin to grow abnormally and can form a mass of cancerous cells.

Extensive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or artificial tanning booths is one of the leading causes of skin cancer. However, genetic and environmental factors can also play a significant role in who develops melanoma.

Risk Factors for Melanoma

include:

  • Fair complexion that burns or freckles easily
  • Family or personal history of melanoma
  • High levels of exposure to UV radiation, strong sunlight, sunlamps or tanning booths
  • One or more severe blistering sunburns before age 20
  • Presence of multiple moles (more than 50)
  • Weakened immune system

Prevention of Skin Cancer

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for melanoma in the United States are for 2012:

About 76,250 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 44,250 in men and 32,000 in women). Incidence rates for melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years.

About 9,180 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,060 men and 3,120 women). From 2004 to 2008, the death rate in whites has been dropping in those younger than 50, but has been stable in women or rising in men older than 50.

Don't hesitate, talk to your doctor about any suspicious moles or skin growths and follow these simple skin protection rules.

  • Don’t sunbathe.
  • Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the peak hours of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  • Use SPF 15 or higher sunscreens everyday.
  • Wear protective clothing, long sleeved shirts, long pants, brimmed hats, and sunglasses when outside.
  • Avoid tanning booths.
  • Examine your skin every three months.

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