Nearly 5 million people each year are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. This is more than the incidence of breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer combined. A recent study in the Archives of Dermatology found that there has been a 300 percent rise in skin cancer incidence since 1994, making skin cancer an epidemic that deserves more awareness.
Non-melanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), are the most common forms of skin cancer. These types of skin cancer rarely become life threatening, but can be locally destructive and disfiguring if left untreated.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. While it accounts for less than 2 percent of skin cancer cases, it is responsible for the vast majority of deaths due to skin cancer. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, nearly 10,000 people are estimated to die from melanoma in theU.S. in 2015. It is also the most common cancer in adults 25-29 years old and second most common cancer in adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old. Fortunately, when detected early, melanoma is highly curable.
More recently, an association has been found between breast cancer and melanoma. People with a history of breast cancer have a higher risk of developing melanoma and vice versa. Although the reason for this is not completely clear, it is likely due to multiple factors. It would make sense for those with a history of breast cancer to get checked for skin cancer annually.
Early Detection and Warning Signs
Regular monthly self-exams, along with annual skin exams by a dermatologist, are key to early detection. Those with a history of skin cancer may require semi-annual or even more frequent skin exams.
Because the 3 major types of skin cancer present in different ways, it is important to look for early warning signs. See a dermatologist or a physician that specializes in skin diseases if you notice any of these red flags.
- Look for changes of any kind, especially a growth that increases in size, appears pearly, translucent, crusty, scaly, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
- A sore or pimple-like growth that does that heal within 3 weeks
- A growth or spot that bleeds easily, ulcerates, continues to itch, hurt, bleed, crust, scab, erode
- ABCDEs of melanoma: Asymmetrical; Border that is irregular; Color that is of varying shades of tan, brown, black or even red, white, and blue; Diameter that is larger than a pencil eraser (but may be smaller), Evolving or changing in size, color, shape, elevation, sensa- tion, symptoms, or another trait
- Do not ignore a suspicious growth just because it does not hurt – skin cancers may be painless
For step by step self-exam instructions, please see the American Academy of Dermatology website or the Skin Cancer Foundation website. You can also stop by Dr. Lu’s office in Warren for a copy of self-exam instructions and body mole map. If you notice a suspicious growth or spot, please see your dermatologist or physician.
Dr. Rebecca Lu is a highly skilled board-certified dermatologist and fellowship-trained Mohs surgeon with an office located at 7 Mt Bethel Rd in Warren, NJ, where she specializes in skin cancer treatments, Mohs surgery, and laser and cosmetic procedures. Dr. Lu is passionate about keeping your skin healthy, clear, and radiant. In addition to treating and diagnosing skin cancers, Dr. Lu also specializes in reversing the signs of aging and sun damage through different procedures and treatments. Dr. Lu and her staff are happy to see you for any of your skin concerns. Please call (908) 787-8088 for an appointment.