Summer is here and that means weekends on the lake, days at the ballpark, and lots of time soaking in the sun. All the sun exposure, however, could have unintended consequences, including skin cancer. The surgeons at University Surgical Associates (USA) want you to be aware of this condition affecting people of all ages and take precautions to prevent it.
Whenmost people hear skin cancer, melanoma may come to mind. Although it’s aggressiveand serious, it’s not only type of skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cellcarcinoma are more common skin cancers. They form in the middle and upperlayers of the epidermis, or the outer layers of skin. They’re considered ‘non-melanoma’and are usually found on arms, neck, face, and top of the head. Non-melanoma skin cancers can often be treatedeffectively when discovered early. The risk of recurrence for these types ofskin cancer goes down after five years.
More Than Skin Deep
Melanoma, although less common than other skin cancers, is moreaggressive. There are advanced risks with melanoma because of its potential tospread quickly to other parts of the body if not found early. What’s more, yourrisk for developing the condition greatly increases with sun exposure.
“Melanomahas a tendency to spread to other areas of the body – more so than non-melanomacancers. It also has a higher potential for recurrence in the original cancersite,” says Alvaro Valle, M.D., surgical oncologist with University SurgicalAssociates. Melanoma is more aggressive than other skin cancers but can betreated effectively.
Who’s at Risk?
“People who have increased sun exposure like working outdoors or using tanningbeds, are at higher risk for developing melanoma,” says Dr. Valle. “But if youhave fair skin, a history of sunburns during childhood, a family history ofunusual moles, or many small moles on the body, you need to take specialprecautions and check your skin regularly.” Children especially need UV protection to prevent future skin cancerrisk.
Protect Your Skin
Minimizing skin exposure to intense UV rays is the best andfirst defense against skin cancer. An effective measure is simply seeking shadewhenever you’re outdoors. The American Cancer Society offers a catchphrase toremember how to protect skin when you do spend time in the sun – Slip, Slop,Slap and Wrap! Slip on protective clothing, such as long sleeve shirts with UVprotection. Slop on sunscreen with an SPF 30 or above. Slap on a hat and wrapon sunglasses. Also consider applying lip balm with SPF protection, andminimizing time outdoors when the sun is strongest – from 10 am to 4 pm.
The most effective way to combat skin cancer is early detection.Surgeons at University Surgical Associates work closely with primary carephysicians and dermatologists to address every aspect of skin cancer – from diagnosisto treatment to recovery.
“Surgeryis very impactful in the treatment of melanoma,” says Dr. Valle. “In earlystages, melanoma can be treated effectively by surgery while in advancedstages, we typically use a combination of surgery and immunotherapy.”
Talkwith your dermatologist or primary care physician if you have any questionsabout moles or unusual areas on the skin when you conduct routine skin exams onyourself. If you suspect a problem,don’t wait. For more information, pleasecall us (423) 267-0466 or visit the USA Surgical Oncology page.