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Skin Cancer Awareness

Written By Alison Sung

Medical Marvels Los Angeles Chapter



Introduction

Many people spend time in the sun oblivious to its dangers. Well, the ultraviolet, UV, rays that the sun bears down causes overexposure to the skin. Not only does the sun contain UV rays but everyday sources like tanning beds or sunlamps can bring harm. The constant beating of these UV rays can lead to the most common type of cancer, skin cancer. Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. 


Types of Skin Cancer 

There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC). These types of skin cancer will look different based on the person’s skin tone, size, and location of the cancer. 


Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. With approximately 3.6 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Generally, it will look like a flesh-colored round bump or a pinkish skin patch. They are usually found around the face, ears, neck, scalp, or shoulders/back. 



Meanwhile, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. Approximately 1.8 million cases in the United States each year are diagnosed. It will look more like a red firm bump or scaly patch. Squamous cells form typically around similar areas to BCC, sun-exposed areas, like ears, face, scalp, or neck/hands.


Melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is said to be “the most serious skin cancer” by the American Academy of Dermatology Association. About 186,680 cases are diagnosed in the United States. This can be developed from inside a mole or begin to appear as another mole/dark spot that looks different from the rest. These can be found anywhere along one’s body, even in areas that aren’t as sun-exposed. 


Recognizing these types of skin cancer can be hard but focusing on the A-B-C-D-Es for melanoma and talking to a doctor as soon as there are notable growth changes in one’s skin can help prevent further damage. 


Warning Signs

For most types of skin cancer in general, make sure to be aware of new spots on the skin, spots that are itchy or painful, non-healing sore that bleeds or develops a crust, wart-like growth, red rough or scaly spot, or scar-like growth without a well-defined border. More specifically in melanoma, it is important to remember the ABCDEs. 

A is for asymmetry: Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?

B is for border: Is the border irregular or jagged?

C is for color: Is the color uneven? 

D is for diameter: Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea? 

E is for evolving: Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months? 



These warning signs are important before the cancer gets too serious. BCC and SCC are curable in the early stages meanwhile MCC spreads extremely easily. Early diagnosis and treatment are important before the cancer settles deeply into the skin causing more damage. 


Preventions

Sun protection like sunscreen with SPF, sun protection factor, of 15 or higher, and avoiding UV rays as much as possible is the most effective prevention to keeping one’s skin healthier. Lowering the risks of skin cancer can include more than just sunscreen like staying in the shade, wearing hats, wearing clothing that covers arms and legs, and wearing sunglasses. Other UV ray sources can be tanning beds which inevitably cause more harm to one’s health than anything else. As the UV rays penetrate through a person’s skin to the innermost layer of skin, the pigment melanin is formed reflecting tans back onto the outermost layer. This just gives one’s skin more exposure to UV rays than it would if it was naturally through the sun. These all add together to have fewer risks of skin cancer. 




Works Cited

“Types of Skin Cancer.” American Academy of Dermatology, www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/types/common. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023. 

“Basic Information about Skin Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 18 Apr. 2023, www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/index.htm#:~:text=Most%20skin%20cancers%20are%20caused,What%20Screening%20Tests%20Are%20There%3F.  Accessed 1 Nov. 2023.

“Skin Cancer Information.” The Skin Cancer Foundation, 12 July 2023, www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023. 

“Skin Cancer Symptoms.” MD Anderson Cancer Center, www.mdanderson.org/cancer-types/skin-cancer/skin-cancer-symptoms.html. Accessed 1 Nov. 2023. 




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