Save Your Skin: How to Prevent, Detect and Treat Skin Cancer
It’s the beginning of spring. The days lengthen, the temperatures rise – and sun protection remains a top priority.
The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70, making it the most prevalent form of cancer. While there are sometimes certain genes and syndromes associated with it, skin cancer is most often caused by Ultraviolet (UV) exposure from the sun and tanning beds.
The good news is that with proactive care from trained specialists like Dermatology Consultants, skin cancer can often be avoided (with proper protection), diagnosed early or treated accordingly.
Types of skin cancer
At Dermatology Consultants, we diagnose and treat numerous skin cancer patients in our office daily. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (most common), squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) usually appears as pearly pink bumps on the skin, sometimes with associated bleeding. BCC is classically associated with a history of sunburns and intermittent intense sun exposure. It can form anywhere on the body, but it’s common on the head, neck and arms. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that 4.3 million people are diagnosed with BCC annually in the United States. Because of its growth potential, early diagnosis and treatment of BCC are crucial.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) typically surfaces as pink or red scaly bumps. Because of its high correlation with UV exposure, SCC often appears on areas of the body with greater sun exposure, such as the face, neck, ears, arms, chest and back. If caught in time, nearly all SCC cases can be treated (Skin Cancer Foundation) – but these cases become dangerous when they go unchecked. That’s why annual professional skin exams and self-checks at home are crucial.
- Melanoma isn’t seen quite as frequently as BCC or SCC – but it can be extremely dangerous because of the risk of spreading elsewhere in the body. The American Cancer Society estimates that the number of new melanoma cases will increase by 5.8 percent in 2021. Melanoma takes its form either in an existing mole or as a new dark spot on your skin most commonly. In addition to professional skin exams, the ABCDE guidelines for melanoma are great for guiding self-exams at home.
Checking for skin cancer
At Dermatology Consultants, we recommend full-body skin exams once a year for healthy adults.
During the examination, one of our specialists will use a dermatoscope, a tool that allows us to see various architectural details of a skin lesion. This includes pigment, vascularity, porosity and scale. These exams are especially useful for the areas of the body that we have trouble checking on ourselves, like the back.
If skin cancer is suspected, we will perform a biopsy for pathologic evaluation. This will tell us the type of skin cancer, as well as any associated high- or low-risk features.
Treating skin cancer
After performing a biopsy, the pathology report and skin cancer location will influence the treatment plan. At Dermatology Consultants, we customize every treatment plan to the patient’s lifestyle, needs and individual cancer characteristics.
Standard treatment options for skin cancer include: Mohs micrographic surgery, excision, electrodessication and curettage, and topical therapy for some superficial tumors. We offer all of these treatment options in-house for DC patients.
Steps to prevent skin cancer
The American Cancer Society reports that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States every year than all other cancers combined. But there are simple steps you can take that could decrease your likelihood of developing skin cancer.
- Wear sunscreen and protective clothing
SPF is crucial in your sun protection routine. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen (at least SPF 30) every day – regardless of the season, weather or your time spent outside. UV rays penetrate through clouds, gray days and even windows. Your clothing matters, too: UPF clothing (the SPF of fabrics) offers optimal protection during outdoor activities. Wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses also help protect your face and neck region.
- Take a preventative supplement
Oral supplements, such as Heliocare and ISDIN SunISDIN, provide an antioxidant booster that further minimizes sun damage. If you’re a patient with a history of skin cancer, an oral supplement like nicotinamide may help reduce future skin cancer likelihood.
- Limit your sun exposure during the hottest hours
UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so it’s a good idea to limit your time in direct sunlight during this span. If you are outside during this time, try to find a shady area, cover up – and always wear SPF, no matter the time of day or your duration outside!
- Visit Dermatology Consultants for regular skin checks
Annual visits to your dermatologist for skin exams are crucial in maintaining optimal skin health. Your physician or physician assistant will guide you with specific advice, based upon your skin and its needs.
It’s more than skin deep: Why choose Dermatology Consultants
Your skin is your body’s largest organ – and it’s important to care for it. With its prevalence in our society, Dermatology Consultants knows that skin cancer can be a scary topic for many people. That’s why we utilize preventative methods and top-of-the-line treatments for our patients through our board-certified physicians and physician assistants.
We have a fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon in-house, who can perform micrographic surgery and manage higher-risk patients. Our team works with physicians in surgical oncology, radiation oncology, oculoplastic surgery, and plastic surgery for occasional cases that require more aggressive treatments. This enables us to accommodate any care necessary for our patients’ needs.
And we never stop learning; at Dermatology Consultants, we prioritize staying current on cutting-edge literature and therapies to ensure we’re providing our patients with the best available care.
Start your journey to healthier skin today by scheduling a skin exam appointment with one of our trained physicians or physician assistants.