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Skin Cancer

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Of all of the organs we have, our skin is the one most exposed. Constantly in contact with both internal and external elements, our skin’s health may be impacted by several factors. While we tend to consider the appearance of our skin for aesthetic purposes, it is also important to check skin for possible signs of skin cancer. This condition is more common than you may think, affecting as many as one out of every five Americans at some point in their lives.

Not all forms of skin cancer are equal, but knowing how to recognize the various types is beneficial for proper treatment.

Actinic Keratoses

This is a common problem especially in fair skinned individuals . These appear as a slightly tender red or brown spots that won't heal.  These precancerous lesions are treated with cryotherapy, prescription creams or photodynamic therapy.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

The highest instances of skin cancer are basal cell carcinomas. These lesions are typically found on the scalp, face, neck, chest, back, arms, hands, legs, and feet. BCC lesions look similar to a pimple, so they may go unrecognized for some time. Gradually, though, a basal cell carcinoma may look more like a pink shiny patch of skin, or a scar, and may even bleed at times.

Basal cell carcinoma is a direct result of excessive exposure to harmful UV rays. This may include time spent under natural sunlight, tanning beds, or x-ray radiation. Those with a family history of this type of cancer are at a higher risk for development of lesions, which should be professionally evaluated and treated quickly so that the growth does not spread.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Occurring just a bit less commonly than basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma is a type that should be taken seriously. This deadly form of skin cancer is also a direct result of UV exposure, often developing on areas of the face such as the lips or nose, as well as the scalp, ears, neck, and extremities. Appearing first as a persistent scaly patch of skin, squamous cell carcinomas tend to grow into bumps, looking like a sore that will not heal, or a wart. As there are squamous cell carcinomas that are aggressive, early detection and treatment is ideal for an optimal outcome.

Melanoma

Melanoma is the form of skin cancer of which most people are frightened. Indeed, this is a type of skin cancer that can result in death if not properly treated, as it can spread throughout the entire body, including the brain or lungs. Melanoma is typically associated with a changing mole, but it may develop on its own. A melanoma can appear brown or black, or may be flesh-toned.

Due to the importance of early detection, it is recommended that annual professional skin checks be performed with your dermatologist. Additionally, you are encouraged to perform monthly self-evaluations. The more acquainted you are with your own skin, the more quickly you will be able to spot suspicious changes.

If a mole becomes itchy or painful, or bleeds, examination with a dermatoscope is recommended. Our team has the specialized training with this tool, which aids in the diagnosis of skin cancers. The dermatoscope allows for better viewing of skin through bright light and polarized filters. This removes glare and greatly magnifies the area your doctor can see. Under this magnification, intricate details within moles and other lesions are visualized in a way that is not possible with the naked eye.

Our patients benefit immensely from this advanced tool, used for many years in Australia and Europe. In viewing suspicious lesions under the dermatoscope, there is improved ability to diagnose potentially dangerous skin cancer, which can be treated successfully with early recognition.

Skin cancer is entirely treatable with early diagnosis. Contact The Washington Dermatology Center for your annual skin examination.

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