Skin Cancer does not discriminate; it develops in people of all ages, gender, skin color and race. Skin cancer is rising at an alarming rate; it is estimated that one in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin Cancer is produced by altered cells that begin to grow and divide uncontrollably. These malignant cells usually appear in the outermost layer of the skin – the epidermis – making the condition clearly visible and easy to detect at an early stage. Although there are different types of skin cancers, the most common are:
• Actinic Keratoses (AKs): considered the earliest stage in the development of skin cancer, dry, scaly patches or spots appear. In some instances, Actinic Keratoses can progress to a Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a fatal type of cancer. Actinic Keratoses mainly develops in adults over 40 due to many years of sun exposure. However, anyone can develop Actinic Keratoses due to sun rays or indoor tanning. The most common affected areas are the head, neck, hands, and forearms due to its constant exposure to sunlight. Proper use of sunscreens can help to prevent Actinic Keratoses. If diagnosed, there are various treatments; however the most important is sun safety.
• Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): this type of skin cancer develops in the basal cells of the epidermis and attacks about 80% of skin cancer patients. The appearance varies from translucent nodules to red irritated patches or elevated sores that bleed. Though metastasis is rare, early detection and treatment can prevent any major damage to the skin and surrounding tissue. Basal Cell Carcinoma tumors grow slowly and mainly trigger the sun-exposed areas of the body.
• Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): this malignant type of skin cancer tends to develop in fair-skinned, middle-aged and elderly people who have been overly exposed to the sun. Squamous Cell Carcinoma can arise from Actinic Keratoses lesions and can take many forms such as dry, scaly, skin-colored, reddish-brown or yellowish-black. Squamous Cell Carcinoma skin cancer is more likely to spread and attack the immune system, therefore early detection and treatment is highly important.
• Melanoma: known as one of the most lethal types of skin cancer, it develops in the melanocytes cells that produce the pigmentation of the skin. Melanoma can appear in pre-existing moles or through new moles that turn malignant. Dr. Nikko recommends a yearly skin check-up to detect any changes. Remember, untreated Melanoma skin cancer has a 100% mortality rate; however, if detected and treated early, Melanoma has a high chance of cure.
Learn your ABCDE’s of Melanoma Detection
• Assymmetry: one side is different than the other.
• Border: irregular or poor border.
• Color: has different shades, varies from tan, brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue.
• Diameter: Melanomas are usually 6mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser).
• Evolving: looks different from the rest of the moles and is ever changing size and color.