Just as I was enjoying my remission from my multiple myeloma (blood cell cancer), I was recently diagnosed with melanoma (skin cancer), which was thankfully the superficial curable kind.
For several months, my hair stylist commented about a lesion on my scalp and said I should have it checked out. I eventually did see my dermatologist and the biopsy showed the melanoma. It was surgically removed and I’ve been told there should be no further concern. Enough with the cancers already.
My recent experience has lead to this article on common skin cancers.
Skin cancer occurs when DNA changes cause the skin cells to form a cancerous growth. Most of the common skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun and its ultraviolet light rays that damage the skin. Even one bad sunburn as a child can increase the chance of skin cancer in adulthood.
I would like to discuss the three most common types of skin cancer:
Basal cell carcinoma: The most common of skin cancers. Usually appears as a flesh colored or brown flat lesion or as a waxy pearly bump. Usually not serious and treated by removal of the lesion.
Squamous cell carcinoma: Appears as a red small bump or a scaly, flat, crusty lesion. It is usually not serious, but can rarely be more aggressive. It also needs removal.
Melanoma: The least common of the three, but most potentially deadly. It is usually found on sun-exposed areas of the skin, but can rarely be found in other parts of the body such the eyes, some internal organs, and under finger/toe nails. Melanoma often presents as a new, usually dark colored lesion or it can present as a change in an existing mole
If you have moles remember the letters ABCDE to help identify the changes to melanoma:
– A is for asymmetry. If you draw a line through the lesion the halves will not match.
– B is for irregular-shaped border.
– C is for change in color, usually becoming darker.
– D is for diameter (a mole becoming greater than 1/4 inch).
– E is for evolving (changing).
Factors that may influence skin cancer are:
– A history of sunburns and excessive exposure to the sun.
– Fair skin and/or having blond or red hair.
– Moles and other common skin lesions such as actinic keratoses (non-cancerous skin lesions).
A family or personal history of skin cancer.
The most important thing to help prevent these common skin cancers is to avoid exposure to ultraviolet light, whether naturally from the sun or artificially from tanning booths.
The bottom line is that if you or someone close to you sees something suspicious on your skin, even your scalp with a full head of hair, see your doctor as soon as possible
Remember that the sooner a skin cancer is identified, the more successful will be the treatment. I’m living proof of that.