Skin cancer is the most frequently diagnosed type of cancer. However, there are different types of skin cancer. They have different appearances and present themselves on different parts of the body.
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer and it is usually very treatable. It grows very slowly and isn't known to spread.
- Squamous cell carcinoma can spread, but it spreads slowly. It most often affects the lymph nodes, but these can be removed before the cancer reaches other areas of the body.
- Malignant melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. It can quickly spread through the skin and into other organs.
Risks and Symptoms: Get Educated
If you are concerned about skin cancer, the most important step is to gather information. The team members at St. Anthony's hospital can help to answer all your questions and help you create a plan for preventing or treating skin cancer.
Find out what the causes are and how you can avoid them. Here are some risks that can increase your chances of getting skin cancer.
Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays: If spend a lot of time in the sun or in tanning beds, you increase your risk for skin cancer.
Light skin: If you have a fair complexion, and don't tan easily, you have less melanin (or pigment). This means you have less protection against UV rays that someone with darker skin has.
Sunburns: If you have ben sunburned often, even as a child, your chances for skin cancer increase as you get older.
Family history: If someone in your family has had skin cancer, you have a greater risk of developing it as well. This is not necessarily genetic; it may just mean that you have been exposed to the same environmental factors.
Geography: It you live close to the equator or at a high elevation, you are more exposed to UV rays, and therefore you are at a higher risk for skin cancer than people who live in other places.
Weak immune system: If you have HIV/AIDS or other immune system issues, you are more susceptible to skin cancer and other diseases.
There are many ways in which you can reduce your risks for developing skin cancer. Here are some to consider.
Wear sunscreen: Many people think that sunscreen is just for the beach, but you need it every day, year-round. Be sure to use an SPF of 15 or higher, and reapply it throughout the day, especially after swimming and sweating.
Watch the clock: Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., try to limit your time in the sun. The UV rays are the most damaging during midday.
Cover up: When you can, wear long sleeves and a hat. The less skin exposed to the sun, the better. Also, look for clothing that blocks UV rays.
Avoid tanning beds: These are dangerous and increase your UV exposure.
Stay alert: Get familiar with your skin, and notice any alterations in your moles or freckles. Sudden changes in color or shape can indicate cancer. You should do a skin self-exam once a month in a full length mirror to pick-up on any changes early.
Usually, skin cancer develops on areas that have been exposed to the sun. But sometimes, it can occur in hidden areas, such as under a nail or between your toes. These are much more difficult to detect.
Get used to assessing your own skin, and pay attention to any changes you see. Here are some symptoms to look out for.
- A new mole
- A mole that changes color
- A mole that changes shape
- A mole with uneven borders
- A mole that gets larger
- A moles that bleeds or oozes
- A mole that itches
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting screened.
For more information on skin cancer care and screenings at The Cancer Center at St. Anthony’s Hospital, please call (727) 825-1253.
St. Anthony's Cancer Center
1201 5th Ave. N., Suite 130
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Phone: (727) 825-1253
Fax: (727) 825-1332