by Jennifer Rice MPAS, PAC, Diplomate American Board of Anti-Aging Health Practitioners
When it comes to skin cancer in America, the most common types are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Let’s take a closer look at each of them:
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): This one takes the crown as the most widespread skin cancer, accounting for about 80% of cases. It usually shows up on areas of the skin that get lots of sun exposure, like the face, scalp, ears, neck, and shoulders. BCC grows slowly and rarely spreads to other parts of the body. It can look like a pearly or waxy bump, a flat flesh-colored or brown scar-like spot, or a pinkish growth with slightly raised edges.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): Coming in second place, SCC makes up around 20% of skin cancer cases. It also tends to pop up on sun-exposed areas such as the face, ears, lips, and backs of the hands. SCC might grow a bit faster than BCC and has a slightly higher chance of spreading, though that’s still pretty rare. You might spot it as a scaly, red patch, a firm bump, or a stubborn sore that won’t heal.
Melanoma: While less common than BCC and SCC, melanoma is the real troublemaker among skin cancers. It can develop anywhere on the body, even in areas that don’t see much sun. Melanoma arises from melanocytes, the cells responsible for skin color. It often shows up as an irregular mole or a new pigmented growth. Watch out for the ABCDEs: asymmetry, irregular borders, uneven color, diameter larger than a pencil eraser, and changing appearance.
Having a skin cancer exam with a dermatology provider is a proactive and important step in caring for your skin. Here’s what you can expect during the exam:
Setting: The exam takes place in a welcoming dermatology office, where the providers are experts in diagnosing and treating various skin conditions, including skin cancer.
Preparation: You’ll be given a medical gown to wear for the exam, ensuring your comfort and privacy.
Discussion: Before the exam begins, the dermatology provider will chat with you about your medical history, any skin concerns, and any changes or symptoms you’ve noticed. Open communication helps them assess your skin effectively.
Examination: The provider will carefully examine your skin from head to toe, using a bright light and a dermatoscope to get a closer look at any suspicious spots or moles.
Communication: During the exam, the provider will discuss their findings with you, pointing out any irregularities and explaining the characteristics of normal and abnormal skin lesions. If they identify any concerns, they may recommend further evaluation or a biopsy.
Education and Recommendations: Based on their evaluation, the provider will offer guidance on monitoring your skin, performing self-exams, and protecting your skin from harm. They may suggest sun protection measures, lifestyle adjustments, or specific treatment options, if needed.
Dermatology providers aim to create a comfortable and non-judgmental environment throughout the process. They understand that skin cancer exams can feel vulnerable and make every effort to make you feel comfortable.
When it comes to recommendations beyond sunscreen and shade, an empowering path to safeguarding your skin from the dangers of skin cancer lies in embracing a holistic approach that nurtures your body, mind, and spirit.
Alcohol and Tobacco Time-out: Increased alcohol intake and smoking are not only harmful to our organs but they can definitely impact the health of our skin. The toxins can wreak havoc on our skin’s collagen and elastin fibers, causing premature aging and impairing wound healing.
Nutritious Nourishment: What we put inside our bodies reflects on the outside, including our skin health. A diet rich in colorful fruits, crisp veggies, wholesome grains, lean proteins, healthy fats like walnuts, avocado, seeds, and adding a cup a day of green tea can provide the nutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants our skin craves.
Move and Groove: Regular exercise not only helps us stay fit and energized but can also contribute to healthier skin. By getting our bodies moving, we enhance blood circulation, which supports the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to our skin cells.
Stress Less, Love More: Stress can take a toll on our overall well-being, including our skin health. Chronic stress can weaken our immune system and leave our skin vulnerable. It’s essential to find healthy ways to manage stress, whether through meditation, prayer, mindfulness, hobbies, volunteering, or spending quality time with loved ones. Let’s prioritize self-care, find our inner zen, and let our skin radiate with tranquility.
Remember, these lifestyle factors are just a piece of the puzzle. Genetics and other factors also play a role in skin cancer. Let’s be kind to ourselves, and embrace a holistic approach to skin cancer early detection and prevention by consulting healthcare professionals like Dermatologists and their Dermatology PAs for personalized guidance.
Together, we can nourish our bodies, protect our skin, prevent skin cancer disease progression, and embark on a journey towards vibrant, healthy living.