Everything you need to know about preventing and recognizing skin cancer
TYPES OF SKIN CANCER:
Actinic Keratoses: While an actinic keratosis is not a skin cancer, it is considered to be precancerous. If left untreated, it can develop into squamous cell carcinoma. Research has shown that people with actinic keratoses have an increased risk of developing other types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Squamous cell skin cancer is the second most common form of skin cancer in Canada after basal cell skin cancer. This form of skin cancer must be treated because the lesion may continue to grow in size, damaging surrounding tissue, and may spread to other areas of the body.
Basal Cell Carcinoma: Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer in Canada. This type of skin cancer fortunately is the least dangerous but must be treated since it will continue to grow, invading and destroying surrounding skin tissue, eventually causing disfigurement.
Melanoma: Malignant melanoma is a less common but highly dangerous form of skin cancer. When found at an early stage, melanoma has one of the highest cure rates of all cancers at more than 90 per cent. If left untreated, melanoma starts to invade into the skin. When it reaches the blood stream or the lymphatic system, it has a chance to spread to other parts of the body and often causes death.
WHAT IS SKIN CANCER AND HOW TO SPOT IT:
- Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells due to mutations in the DNA of skin cells.
- UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer
- There is a clear link between locations of accumulative UV exposure and the most common skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma (head and neck regions) and squamous cell carcinoma (face and neck, backs of hands).
- Melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer, can occur anywhere but most often occurs on men's and women's faces, women's lower legs and men's trunks.
In general, any new skin lesion or a change in a pre-existing lesion (such as a change in size, shape, colour or border) can be a cause for concern. Skin lesions with an irregular border, asymmetry, multiple colours, a very black colour or bleeding might be a possibly life-threatening malignant melanoma. The best advice is to have a proper assessment with a dermatologist.
The Canadian Dermatology Association has recently released free infographics on its website on the best ways to be sun safe. THE BEST WAY TO BE SUN SAFE:
- Seek shade from 11–3, when the sun’s rays are their strongest.
- Wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat that covers the face, ears, and the back of the neck
- Wear close-fitting UV-protective sunglasses that are labelled ‘UV400’ or ‘100% UV protection’
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, with an SPF of at least 30, and be sure to reapply sunscreen after swimming, strenuous exercise, or toweling off
If you need help choosing a sunscreen, look for the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) logo on products to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the sunscreen. CDA Expert Advisory Board recognized products are: o Broad-spectrum with an SPF of 30 or higher
- Non-irritating and hypo-allergenic
- Minimally perfumed or non-perfumed
Special note for babies Babies are not born with a developed skin protection system and have sensitive skin that is thinner than adult skin so they burn more easily. A young child has more skin, relative to body mass, than an adult, so a sunburn will be more serious. Even children born to parents with deeply pigmented (dark) skin require maximum protection. Sunburns not only hurt and cause skin damage but they can also cause dehydration and fever.
DOCTOR KNOWS BEST:
Melanoma comes in all shapes and sizes and if left untreated could be lethal. Early detection is key, you should examine your skin regularly to look for anything new or any changes on your skin. Have someone check areas that can be hard to see on your own (back, neck, etc) and see a certified dermatologist if you spot something suspicious.
If you are currently taking any medication, you may want to check with your doctor or pharmacist, as some prescription drugs can cause photosensitivity and increase your risk of burning
Viewers can go to dermatology.ca to download these infographics free of charge, as well as for further information on sun safety, sunscreen FAQs, and skin cancer.