Skin cancer is the leading form of cancer worldwide.
Fortunately, it is the most curable.
Dr. Van Dam and our staff are expertly trained to identify potentially cancerous lesions. Upon examination a biopsy may be recommended. Treatment depends on the form of skin cancer diagnosed, and the location and size of the lesion. Dr. Van Dam may treat you personally for an effective and cosmetically pleasing result, or refer you to a colleague with dedicated expertise in treating skin cancer.
Risk Factors for Developing Skin Cancer
Family history of skin cancer
Weakened immune system
History of indoor tanning
History of outdoor tanning and/or sunburns
Blue or green eyes
Skin Cancer Prevention
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers You can still have fun in the sun, just take some extra precautions
Seek shade at peak times: 10am - 3pm
Apply sunscreen daily
Wear protective clothing outdoors, including a hat and sunglasses
Use extra caution near reflective snow, sand and water
Get Vitamin D safely through diet of supplements
NO indoor tanning - 1 tanning session increases the risk of skin cancer by 67%. Under the age of 35 it is 75%.
Throughout life, the ultra-violet rays of the sun damage and weaken the skin. For years dermatologists have advised patients about daily sun protection from infancy and throughout life.
Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. In addition, products that contain the ingredient "Parsol" (or avobenzone) provide added protection against the damaging UVA rays. Non-chemical physical barriers such as micronized titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are also very helpful in protecting even sensitive skin from sun damage.
How you use your sunscreen is as important as what you use. Most people use too little sunscreen and fail to attain maximum benefit. A tablespoon is an appropriate amount to cover the face, back of neck and tops of the ears; two ounces (a shot glass size), is appropriate to cover the average adult body. In addition, it is recommended that sunblock be reapplied every 1 1/2 to 2 hours if you are swimming or perspiring heavily.
Most skin cancer can be found early. That is why it is so important to get regular body checks. With early detection and proper treatment basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma skin cancers are about a 95% cure rate. When melanoma is detected early enough before it spreads it also is highly curable. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that you check your birthday suit on your birthday. Call the office if you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin.
TYPES OF SKIN CANCERS
Actinic Keratoses (AK's) are skin lesions that are considered the earliest stage of skin cancer. AK's are considered precancer, and if left untreated the lesions have up to a 20% chance of developing into Squamous Cell Carcinoma. AK's usually appear on sun-exposed areas such as the scalp, face and back of hands. The lesions typically look rough and scaly and can vary in size. There are a few treatment options the most often used are liquid nitrogen to freeze the lesions and Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), a light activated topical medication. Sun protection is important for preventing AK's.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), a skin cancer, is actually the most common form of cancer in the world. It is a slow growing cancer and rarely metastasizes or kills. BCC can occur anywhere on the body, but most often occurs where the skin has been exposed to the sun and Ultraviolet (UV) rays. BCC sometimes appears as a waxy bump, and can be many shapes and sizes. It will often look like a pimple-like growth. There are a number of surgical and non-surgical options to treat BCC. The appropriate treatment depends on the size, location and characteristics of the tumor as well as overall health and needs of the patient. If you have had BCC it is imporant to schedule follow up visits because BCC can return.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. SCC is uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells of the epithelial cells. These cells make up the majority of the epidermis, or top layer, of the skin. It is catagorized as a nonmelanoma type of cancer. Most SCC cancer is caused by sun damage. It most often appears as a scaly, crusted large reddish patch. Early detection from a skin biopsy is important because if left untreated SCC can spread to other parts of the body including internal organs. There are several ways to treat Squamous Cell Carcinoma. Most treatments can be performed in the office. If it requires more invasive surgery patients are referred out to a MOHS specialist.
Melanoma is a cancer of the skin that begins in melanocytes - the cells that produce the brown pigment (melanin) that colors the skin, hair and eyes. Melanocytes also form moles, where melanoma sometimes develops. Melanoma is less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers. However, melanoma is an especially dangerous type of skin cancer because it is more likely to spread. There is good news. When found early, melanoma is highly treatable with a cure rate of over 90% of all melanomas diagnosed. The following the ABCDE’s can help you identify a potential melanoma.
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