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Cancer Awareness

Skin Cancer Awareness

Skin cancer is a lifestyle disease, affecting the young, old and everyone in between. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

An estimated 106,110 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2021. An estimated 7,180 people will die of melanoma in 2021. Melanoma accounts for less than 1% of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths. The vast majority of melanomas are caused by the sun.

While basal and squamous cell cancers are less likely than melanoma to spread and become life-threatening, they should be identified and treated early. If not, they can grow and invade nearby tissues and organs, causing scarring, deformity or even loss of function.

You can use these tools to learn more. 

Risk factors

While anyone can develop skin cancer, you are at greater risk if you have any of these factors:

  • Fair skin that freckles easily and burns before tanning
  • Light-colored hair and eyes
  • Large number of moles or moles of unusual size or shape
  • Family and/or personal history of skin cancer
  • Personal history of blistering sunburns
  • Live or vacation at high altitudes (UV ray strength increases at higher altitudes)
  • Spend excessive time outdoors working or playing
  • An autoimmune disease, such as lupus
  • Had an organ transplant
  • A weakened immune system, such as that caused by HIV
  • Take medicines that suppress your immune system or make your skin more sensitive to sunlight

Risk increases with age
The incidence of melanoma has been increasing steadily for 30 years. This year alone, approximately 91,270 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in the U.S. The risk of melanoma goes up as you age, but melanoma is also diagnosed in those younger than 30.

Prevention

Find your place in the shade.

For a lifetime of healthy and beautiful skin, avoid a place in the sun and opt for the shade. In addition to preventing skin cancer, follow these recommendations:

  • Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
  • For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of 6 months.
  • Cover your skin with long sleeves, broad-brimmed hats and scarves.
  • Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
  • See your physician every year for a professional skin exam.
  • Remain in the shade during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds.
  • Do not burn.

Taking care in Kansas
A recent report from the CDC found that melanoma rates doubled between 1982 and 2011 in the U.S. In Kansas, the malignant melanoma rates increased significantly during the past decade from 16.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 23.4 cases per 100,000 people in 2011. More than 700 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed among Kansans in 2011.

Skin Cancer FAQ

Medical oncologist Gary Doolittle, MD, answers frequently asked questions about skin cancer.

Your role in early detection

By examining your skin, you can catch potentially dangerous conditions while they are still treatable.

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas may begin as:

  • A small, white or pink nodule or bump with a smooth and shiny, waxy or pitted surface
  • A red spot that is rough, dry or scaly
  • A firm, red lump that may form a crusted group of nodules
  • A sore that bleeds and does not heal after two to four weeks
  • A white patch that looks like scar tissue

Melanoma warning signs

Melanoma is usually signaled by a change in the size, shape or color of an existing mole or as a new growth. Watch for the ABCDE warning signs:

  • A is for Asymmetry
    One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.

  • B is for Border
    Edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.

  • C is for Color
    Color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue.

  • D is for Diameter
    Spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.

  • E is for Evolution
    Mole is changing in size, shape, color or border.

If you have these warning signs, have your skin checked by your doctor.

Learn more

By knowing your risk factors and having regular screenings, you can avoid skin cancer. If you have questions or want to request a skin cancer screening, please call 913-588-1227.

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