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Mon, July 1, 2013
The Numbers and Letters You Want to Know To Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer
Numbers don't lie. According to the American Cancer Society, 76,250 people will be diagnosed with a form of skin cancer in the United States this year. This number is extremely eye-opening and demonstrates the severity of how common skin cancer really is.
 
Most skin cancers, but not all, are caused by ultraviolet radiation either from the sun or tanning booths.  The UV light rays that come from the sun are particularly dangerous because we cannot see them. It is this radiation that can damage DNA and cause abnormal growth such as basal, squamous and melanoma skin cancers. Other causes include genetic and being exposed to toxic substances.
 
Early detection is crucial. My number one advice to readers is: Know Your Skin! Not only your hands and face, but be familiar with all your birthmarks, moles, and scars. Being able to identify abnormalities in your skin is necessary because often patients will come in to the dermatologist's office because they noticed something suspicious.
 
Luckily, trained doctors will be able to carry out the appropriate measures and take it from there to evaluate your skin and make recommendations for skin care. We tell our patients at Doctor's Approach Dermatology to remember to look for sores that won't heal or patches of dry skin that won't go away with lotion.  
 
There is also a helpful mnemonic to remember, the A, B, C, D, and E's of pigmented spots. 
  • A is for asymmetry, the left side does not match the right when you imagine a straight line down the middle. 
  • B is for irregular borders. If you find a mole that has blurry or undefined edges, it could be suspicious for skin cancer.
  • C is for color. Finding a mole that has more than one color or is an abnormal color and multiple colors such as tan, red, dark brown and black all within the same growth is cause for concern.
  • D is for diameter. If a mole is larger than a pencil laser it should be examined.
  • Lastly, E is for elevation, evolution or change of any kind such as itching, burning or bleeding. Watch for change with sun exposure or a flat mole becoming raised.
If any of these signs occur, it may be time to get it examined by a dermatologist to ensure it is benign.
 
Doctor's Approach Dermatology is the second location in Michigan that has the cutting edge technology called Melafind, a painless device that can determine within seconds, without surgery, if a pigmented mole is at high risk for melanoma, the deadly form of skin cancer. So there is no cutting or damaging of the skin and Melafind can prevent scarring.
 
Once we determine how irregular the mole is, a dermatologist will select the most appropriate treatment for removal, depending on the location, size, type, and severity of the skin cancer.  
 
If a skin cancer is large or aggressive, then MOHS micrographic surgery may be needed. It is the precise removal of skin cancer, and the dermatologist will use a microscope to make sure all of the abnormal cells have been removed before suturing the skin back together. Removal of skin cancers with this method can result in a 99% cure rate, which is the highest of all skin cancer removal techniques.
 
Back to the truth of numbers: According to the American Cancer Society, 9,480 is the estimated amount of people who will die of melanoma in 2013 in the United States. We are seeing melanoma in younger and younger people because of the tanning booths and recreational sun exposure. This number fuels my passion to prevent, detect, and treat skin cancer. My advice to readers is to educate yourself, share the information with your family, wear sunscreen anytime you step outside, and make regular appointments with your dermatologist.

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