Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
The sun is shining so most of us want to spend time outside. It is this time of year sunscreen is especially important. Sunscreen, as well as knowledge, is the best defense against skin cancer which affects one out of five Americans by age 70.
Skin cancer, abnormal cells in the epidermis (skin), most often occurs on areas exposed to sunlight. The primary causes of skin cancer are the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and the use of UV tanning beds.
If caught early, your dermatologist can treat skin cancer with little or no scarring and favorable odds of eliminating it entirely. Your doctor may even detect precancerous growth if you communicate changes in your skin during an appointment. The goal is to catch it before it becomes full-blown skin cancer or penetrates below the skin’s surface.
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell, carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Most of the cells found on the outer layer of skin are basal cells which are round and form at the bottom of the epidermis and flatten as they make their way to the surface. At the surface, they transform into squamous cells.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) are generally found on the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back. These cells can also be found in the throat, the lining of the respiratory and digestive system and hollow organs such as the kidneys.
BCC is the most common form of skin cancer accounting for about 80 percent of skin cancers according to the National Cancer Society with approximately 3.6 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year. BCC can be successfully treated if detected early although occasionally these cancers metastasize (spread).
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) accounts for about 20 percent or 1.8 million cases of skin cancers. SCC are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales and are found in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin. Most cancers of the anus, cervix, head and neck, and vagina are squamous cell carcinomas.
Melanoma, a cancer that develops from melanocytes, produces the melanin pigment which gives skin its color. Melanomas often resemble moles and sometimes may arise from them. They can be found on any area of the body. Melanoma is the most dangerous of the three forms of skin cancer. It can be curable when treated early. In 2021, more than 207,390 new cases of melanoma are expected with about half of them to be considered invasive.
Preventing skin cancer by protecting yourself requires a comprehensive approach. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends seeking shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., avoid tanning, cover up including a broad brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, and a UVA/UVB sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher. It is also important to keep newborns out of the sun, examine your skin from head to toe monthly, and see your doctor and dermatologist for evaluation and a professional skin exam.
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