You may ask, “why the need for a Skin Cancer Awareness Month?” The answer is fairly simple; everyone is at risk for skin cancer. It is the most common cancer in the U.S. In fact, one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime. Early detection and prompt treatment of skin cancers are key to successful outcomes; and that is why Skin Cancer Awareness Month is both important and relevant to you!
It is estimated that more than 8,500 people in the US are diagnosed with skin cancer every day. The majority of these skin cancers are non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSCs). About 80% are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and 20% are squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These NMSCs (BCC and SCC) have cure rates of around 95% if they are detected and treated early. The remaining 20% are melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, melanoma rates in U.S. have doubled from 1982 to 2011. It is the most common form of cancer for young adults aged 25-29 and the second most common form of cancer in adolescents and young adults aged 15-29.
Here are some eye opening statistics. On average, one American dies of melanoma every hour. In 2016, it is estimated that 10,120 deaths will be attributed to melanoma. Thankfully, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma that is detected early is 98%. That said, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma that has spread to nearby lymph nodes lowers to 63%, and further drops to 17% if distant lymph nodes and other organs are involved.
The estimated annual cost of treating skin cancers in the US is $8.1 billion!
So, what to do? Avoid unprotected and excessive ultraviolet light exposure; this absolutely includes tanning beds! Wear sunscreen (at least an SPF 30, and reapply at least every 2 hours), sun protective clothing and seek shade when possible. Remember, you are always your own best advocate! I may sound like a broken record to my patients, but I truly believe that when in doubt, check it out. Please seek out evaluation by a board certified Dermatologist if you note the following: 1) the “ugly duckling” – any spot that sets off your internal alarm and does not look like anything else on your body, 2) symptoms like pain, itching, bleeding occur without provocation, or 3) an existing spot is evolving in some way that raises your suspicion.
As an adult, yearly skin checks by your dermatologist are generally sufficient. That said, should any of the above three changes occur, visit a dermatologist sooner than your scheduled annual check. If you have a history of NMSC, we recommend a skin check every 6 months. Melanoma survivors require closer surveillance, with skin checks performed every 3-4 months for the first 5 years.
We are here for you! Don’t forget, early detection and prompt treatment of skin cancer is key to a successful outcome.
Healthy skin, healthy you!
See one of the many ways we treat skin cancer in this video by Local 10 news.View video