Did you know that one in five Americans will have skin cancer during the course of a lifetime?
Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells, due to mutations or genetic defects that can cause the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. Most often, the DNA damage that occurs is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunshine or tanning beds, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
“The biggest risk factor is increasing sun exposure,” said Dr. Scott Goble, Radiation Oncologist at St. Joseph Health Cancer Center. “The best thing to do for prevention is to reduce sun exposure.”
The sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. But, you can take the following steps to protect you and your family:
“Use sun-protective clothing, including wide-brimmed hats, as well as sun screen to reduce your exposure,” said Dr. Goble.
When possible, you can protect yourself with long-sleeved shirts and long pants, as well as clothes made from tightly-woven fabric. A wet t-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, according to the CDC, and darker colors can offer more protection than lighter colors.
Sunglasses – ones that block both UVA and UVB rays – are also important, especially wrap-around sunglasses that block rays from sneaking in from the side. Most sunglasses sold in the United States meet this standard.
When wearing sunscreen, it’s critical to reapply regularly, according to Cancer Research UK, since some products rub, wash or sweat off more easily than others.
Who’s at Risk?
All patients with exposure to the sun can be at risk for skin cancer, but the risk is even greater for fair-skinned patients, as well as individuals with immune disorders, such as immune suppression for transplant and chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia, said Dr. Goble.
Lymphocytic Leukemia is a type of cancer that begins in the bone marrow and moves into the blood.
There are other risks, according to Dr. Goble, but they are much less common, including exposure to certain chemicals and hereditary disorders.
Symptoms of skin cancer include a grown of a lesion on the skin, scaly areas that won’t heal, irregular borders, changing colors or lesions that are black in appearance, according to Dr. Goble.
People who have many moles or abnormal moles – which look irregular and are generally larger than normal moles – can be at greater risk for skin cancer. If you have a history of abnormal moles, it’s important to watch them regularly for changes, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Precancerous skin lesions indicative of skin cancer are most common on the face, head and hands of fair-skinned people whose skin has been sun damaged.
The good news is that skin cancer patients in the Brazos Valley have access to the latest techniques and therapies through local dermatologists, the St. Joseph Health Cancer Center and our network of family physicians.
Options for treatment can include anything from surgical excision and Mohs surgery, a micrographic surgery that helps patients spare the greatest amount of healthy tissue while completely expunging cancer cells.
The Cancer Center also offers radiation treatment and, in rare cases, chemotherapy.
“For Melanoma [a cancer that begins in cells that produce the pigment that colors the skin, hair and eyes], there have been many recent advances with targeted chemotherapy and immunotherapy agents,” said Dr. Goble.
For more information about skin cancer and treatment options, visit our Cancer Center online or call us today at 979-774-0808.
Our physicians at St. Joseph Health wish you a safe and healthy summer!