Health Matters The latest news on the health and wellness issues that matter most • May 2015
spots… you find them on ladybugs, leopards and polka-dot dresses and sometimes they even end up on the carpet. But spots do not belong on your skin. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States It occurs when there are mutations in
tion of melanin, a skin pigment that acts a bit like sunscreen, but this does not make them any less susceptible to the sun’s radiation. Melanoma often appears under their fingernails or toenails, on the palms of their hands, and on the soles of their feet. While your chances of getting melanoma increase as you get older, it’s one of the most common cancers in young adults (ages 25 to 29). It is a serious and sometimes life-threatening cancer. If it is not caught early, it can grow deeper within the skin and metastasize, or spread, to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat. While skin cancer doesn’t discrim- inate, there are certain factors that
the DNA of the skin cells. This form of cancer begins in your skin’s top layer, the epidermis. This is a thin layer that provides a protective cover of skin cells continually shed by your body. The epidermis contains three main types of cells: squamous, basal and melanocytes. There are three major types of skin cancer. The two most common are squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. The third is melanoma; while it is less common, it is the
can increase your risk: ■ Light-colored skin, hair and eyes ■ People with moles or abnormal moles ■ Excessive sun exposure ■ History of sunburns ■ Family history of skin cancer ■ Personal history of skin cancer ■ Weakened immune system ■ Sunny or high-altitude climates
most dangerous kind. Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Causes, Signs and Symptoms
Squamous cells lie just below the outer surface and function as the skin’s inner lining. Most often, squamous cell carcinoma occurs on areas of your body exposed to the sun, such as your face, ears and hands. People with darker skin are more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma on areas that aren’t often exposed to sun as often, such as the legs and feet. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a firm, red
■ Exposure to certain substances such as arsenic You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting or avoiding exposure to UV radiation, wearing sunscreen year-round, wearing protective clothing, avoiding tanning beds and
being aware of sun-sensitizing medications. Check your skin for suspicious changes and make an
nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly, crusted surface. Basal Cell Carcinoma – Causes, Signs and Symptoms
appointment with your doctor or dermatologist if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Not all skin changes are caused by skin cancer, but if it is cancer, early detection offers a better chance at successfully treating the disease. Sun-Safety Myths According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, five or more sunburns over the course of a lifetime double your risk of melanoma. Here are a few dispelled myths about the sun so you can continue to enjoy the great outdoor safely. Myth: I wear SPF 50 or higher; I have nothing to worry about. Truth: The increase in protection offered by higher SPFs is minimal. The difference in protection between an SPF 15 and an SPF 50 is only a 5% increase. Look for “broad spectrum” or “multi-spectrum” on the label. This indicates the sunscreen guards against UVA and UVB rays, which can damage your skin in different ways.
Basal cells produce new skin cells and live beneath the squamous cells. Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs in areas of your body exposed to the sun, such as your neck or face. It may appear as a pearly or waxy bump or a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion.
Melanoma – Causes, Signs and Symptoms Melanoma begins in skin cells called melanocytes.
Melanocytes are the cells that make melanin, which give skin its color. Melanin also protects the deeper layers of the skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. When exposed to the sun, the melanocytes produce more melanin, causing the skin to tan, but too much exposure to any type of UV light (including tanning beds) may cause the melanocytes to grow abnormally and become cancerous. In men, melanoma most often shows up on the upper body, between the shoul- ders and hips and on the head and neck, whereas on a women, it’s more likely to develop on her lower legs. People with darker skin have a higher concentra-
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