Among the dermatologist’s primary concerns is skin cancer awareness. We try to make all patients aware enough of the hazards of skin cancer that they will receive/perform regular skin cancer screenings, both at the dermatologist’s office and at home. Why is vigilant and routine skin cancer screening so necessary? Like all cancers, skin cancer is the rapid and uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. This growth results in tumors that are either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Skin is the largest organ and must be monitored carefully for lesions that are potentially harmful, sometimes fatally so. The best way to do this is with thorough skin cancer screening by the specialist (particularly for high-risk, fair-skinned individuals).
With skin cancer, abnormal cells are identified in three ways: Basal cell carcinoma; Squamous cell carcinoma; and Melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the less serious types and make up 95% of all skin cancers. Melanoma is the most serious and causes 75% of all skin cancer deaths. Left untreated too long, it can quickly spread to other organs and become difficult to contain. With any suspicion of melanoma, seeing a dermatologist immediately is of utmost importance.
NYDG FLASH FACTS
- Skin cancer has become the most prevalent cancer in the USA.
- Skin cancer is mainly caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. (Though UV light from tanning beds is also dangerous.)
- Cumulative exposure to ultraviolet radiation over years causes basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Severe sunburns from the past are mostly responsible for melanoma.
- Skin cancer has a high cure rate if detected and treated early. The most common warning sign is a visible change on the skin, a new growth, or a change in an existing lesion or mole. Look for:
- A – Asymmetry. Two sides not alike
- B – Border. Irregular, wavy or indistinct border
- C – Color. Varied and inconsistent
- D – Dimension. Change in size
- E – Elevation. Patch is raised above surrounding skin