Straight from the NYDG Scared Straight department, first a few hard facts about the present state of skin cancer:
It’s the most prevalent form of all cancers in the USA.
In 2009, about one million Americans will be diagnosed with it.
Of them, about ten thousand will die from it.
The number-one factor in the development of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Any dermatologist wants you to take your fun in the sun seriously, and to always use adequate sun protection, and to always make sure your children do too. Skin cancer can appear decades after a sunburn, or from accumulated sun exposure, and here is one area where an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Like all cancers, skin cancer is the rapid and uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. This rapid growth results in tumors, either benign or malignant. In the case of skin cancer, the abnormal cells are identified as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma. basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the less serious but still must be treated by a dermatologist. Melanoma is extremely serious and must be treated immediately to prevent dire consequences. It can be fatal if allowed to progress and spread, and is the main cause of death from skin cancers.
Cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation over years causes mostly basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Severe sunburns from the past are mostly responsible for melanoma.
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a visible change on the skin: a new growth, or a change in an existing lesion or mole. Basal cell carcinoma may appear as a small, smooth, pearly or waxy bump on the face, ears, or neck; or, as a flat, pink/red or brown-colored lesion on the trunk or arms and legs. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a firm, red nodule; or as a rough, scaly flat lesion that may itch, bleed, and become crusty. Both basal cell and squamous cell cancers mainly occur on areas of the skin frequently exposed to the sun, but they can occur anywhere, so the entire body must be regularly screened. As for Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, it often appears as a pigmented patch or bump. It may somewhat resemble a normal mole, but typically is more irregular in appearance.