Posts Tagged ‘skin cancer’


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.

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Summer Sun

Summer is here and many of us are being exposed to an abundance of sunshine. I’d like to explain how we can best avoid the harmful effects of the sun.

We all know that the sun provides visible light to our earth, but it also provides invisible light called ultraviolet rays of which there are two types. Ultraviolet A (UVA) causes skin aging and skin cancer, not visual sunburn.  Ultraviolet B (UVB) is what actually causes the traditional sunburn. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

Some people are more sensitive to the damaging effects of the sun. Those who have blond or red hair, light colored skin and light colored eyes will get sunburn quicker than those with darker skin and eyes.

Sunlight damages the skin in the same manner as a heat burn, causing symptoms ranging from a first degree red, hot painful burn to a second degree burn causing blisters and deeper damage to the skin.  Unprotected long term exposure to sunlight will cause wrinkling of the skin with the appearance of premature aging.  The most serious effect of sun damage is the increased chance of developing a deadly skin cancer called melanoma.

The best protection against the damaging effects of the sun is to have your skin covered by clothing to the greatest extent possible.  Wear light colored tightly woven clothing. If impractical to be protected by clothing, then a sunscreen lotion is necessary.

Sunscreens are rated by a code called SPF (sun protection factor) which you will see on the label of all sunscreens.  It rates how long a person can be in the sun without being burned.  There is no proof that SPF ratings over 30 give any measurable benefit. Most sunscreens now protect against both UVA and UVB. Check the label before you buy a sunscreen lotion.

Proper application is the key to success. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to sun exposure.  Use about 1 teaspoon per body part such as the face, an arm or a leg.  Use 2 tablespoons (comparable to a shot glass) to cover the body when wearing a bathing suit.

Most sunscreen lotions are labeled either “water proof” or “water resistant.”  Even these need to be reapplied after swimming, towel drying, or heavy sweating. Read the directions on the label.

Apply the sunscreen to all exposed body parts especially those often overlooked such as tops of ears and feet, back of the neck, face and bald spots.


  • Avoid sun exposure especially between the hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 pm.
  • Always wear sunscreen and reapply frequently, at least every 2-3 hours, or more frequently if your skin gets wet from swimming or sweating.  One application in the morning will not protect you through the whole day.
  • Keep yourself covered with light colored tightly knit clothing as much as possible.
  • Avoid tanning salons.
  • See your doctor if you have a sunburn and are experiencing unbearable pain or significant blistering.
  • Check your skin (all areas) regularly for any unusual dark lesions.
  • Protect your eyes with UV rated sunglasses.

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