When you come to our office, we will also examine the rest of your skin as indicated. If we see any suspicious areas, we will notify you and send your referring doctor a specially designed letter with color digital photographs. You also need to be aware of the early signs of skin cancer. A rapid diagnosis means a smaller tumor.
Most commonly, skin cancers start as small bumps or patches of skin that slowly increase in size. They often will bleed and then seem to heal before repeating this cycle again. Any skin lesion that bleeds should be examined for a possible skin biopsy. Melanomas will most commonly increase in size, change colors, and itch. Skin cancers can be scaling, smooth, or firm. In many cases, you can’t tell by looking at the lesion and a skin biopsy is indicated. A skin biopsy removes a small piece of skin to be examined by a pathologist who can diagnose skin cancer. Skin biopsies are accurate, small, quick, easy, and the best way to be certain of a diagnosis.
Actinic Keratoses are precancerous small rough papules on the sun-exposed areas of face, neck, scalp, and arms. Left untreated they can progress to invasive skin cancers. Treating these premalignant lesions with your referring doctor is an essential part of skin-health maintenance.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all types of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology has recommended these seven steps to reduce the risk of skin cancer:
Generously apply a water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
Protect children from sun exposure by playing in the shade, using protective clothing, and applying sunscreen. Remember, 80% of your lifetime sun exposure occurs before the age of 18. Do not use sunscreen on children under six months of age.
Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand. These areas reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase sun damage.
Seek the shade. Remember, the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Use umbrellas at the pool and beach.
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from tanning beds and sun lamps can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.
Melanoma is the third most common cancer in women ages 20–39.