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Melanoma Awareness

Apr 12 2016

Let’s face it most men (including me) hate to go to the doctor. It often takes a great deal of pushing and prodding. Luckily for David, he listened to his wife who had been nagging him to come in for a skin check. Reluctantly he scheduled an appointment for a skin cancer screening. He was in good health but had a few risk factors for skin cancer as his sister had been diagnosed with skin cancer and he had an outdoor job and recalled multiple sunburns. We checked him from head to toe and actually found a spot on his toe that had some irregular pigmentation. A biopsy showed that this was a melanoma in-situ. Fortunately for David this is the earliest stage at which melanoma can be diagnosed and the cure rate is over 99%. He underwent a minor in office surgical procedure to cure his skin cancer.

May marks skin cancer awareness month. There are about 3.5 million skin cancers diagnosed each year in the United States. It is estimated that there will be about 144,860 cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2016. In the United States there are more cases of skin cancer than cancers of the breast, colon, lung and prostate combined. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer because it can be lethal. However, the good news is that early diagnosis can lead to complete cures. Surprisingly melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 25-29. Approximately 75% of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.

Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the two most common types of skin cancers. These can appear as non-healing sores or crusted bumps. Some simply appear as a red patch that can be misdiagnosed as dry skin or eczema. The good news is that these skin cancers are much less likely to spread. The diagnosis is confirmed by taking a sample known as a skin biopsy. Most patients with basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma have their skin cancers treated with minor in office surgical procedures.

Most skin cancers have a genetic component. The other key ingredient is sun and ultraviolet exposure such as that from tanning beds. In order to prevent skin cancer I recommend an ounce of prevention. Do what you love but avoid the peak sun hours between 10 and 2. Apply and reapply a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Forget about going to tanning beds (spray on tans are fine). Lastly, see a board certified dermatologist once a year for a full body skin check. A skin check is a snap to go through and much easier than a colonoscopy. It is also a good idea for you to check yourself once a month so that you will be able to notice if a mole or a spot is changing.

Luckily for David his story had a happy ending. If you have any spots that you are concerned about or if you can’t remember the last time you were checked from head to toe by a board certified dermatologist please call my office now at (925)272-2695 to schedule an appointment.

Category: General Dermatology

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