South Florida attracts sun worshipers, and for good reason. There’s lots of sunshine here, combined with some of the best beaches in the world. Who doesn’t love the sun and sand? However, there’s a dark side to the sun. The sun’s beautiful rays can also lead to skin cancer - the most common type of cancer, which is why it’s crucial to monitor and protect your skin.
All skin cancers are serious and should receive prompt medical attention. The three main types of skin cancers are melanoma, and two nonmelanoma skin cancers--basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Both of these nonmelanoma skin cancers are usually very treatable, especially if caught early. Melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer and it’s the deadliest. While it’s the least common, accounting for only about one percent of skin cancers, those numbers are growing. Palm Beach County has a higher incidence of melanoma than the rest of Florida. Skin cancer awareness is critical.
What Causes Melanoma and What Are the Risk Factors?
The most common causes of melanoma are exposure to ultraviolet (UV radiation) from sunlight or tanning lamps and beds. Limiting your exposure to these elements can help reduce your risk. Genetics can also play a role; 10 percent of patients have a family history of melanoma. Melanoma is mostly diagnosed in Non-Hispanic whites. Fair-skinned people have less melanin in the skin, exposing them more to UV radiation. Another risk factor is having a history of sunburn. Melanoma increases as you age. The average age of diagnosis is sixty-three, though the numbers seem to be increasing in people under 40. To reduce your risk factors, try to avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest – between 10 am and 4 pm. You can also protect yourself by using sunscreen daily (an SPF of 30 or higher); wearing protective clothing, including a hat with a large brim, and sunglasses; and staying away from tanning beds.
What Are the Early Signs of Melanoma?
Skin cancer typically develops on the areas of our bodies most often exposed to the sun: face, necks, chest, arms, hands, and legs. But it can also be found anywhere on the body. For darker-skinned people, Melanoma is commonly found beneath the fingernails or toenails, the soles of the feet, the palm of the hands, and the genital area. When looking for signs and symptoms of melanoma, it’s important to be vigilant about routinely checking your skin, and knowing what to look for on your skin. Pay attention to any new spots. Also, look out for a spot that has changed in size, color or shape. The American Cancer Society has created a simple guide that will help people spot the usual signs of melanoma. It’s called the ABCDE rule:
- A is for Asymmetry - One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
- B is for Border - The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
- C is for Color - The 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 - The spot is larger than six millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
- E is for Evolving - The mole is changing in size, shape or color.
But some melanomas don't meet these criteria, so if you notice a new spot or changes in another spot, see a doctor right away.
Get the Best Skin Cancer Treatment in Delray Beach
With any form of skin cancer, early detection and treatment are key. At Feinstein Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery, we treat non-melanoma patients with a low-energy form of radiation therapy called Superficial Radiation Therapy (SRT). The popular treatment uses very focused low-doses of radiation that only penetrates the skin's surface, effectively destroying these cancers. Call us at (561) 498-4407 to make an appointment so we can discuss skin cancer prevention and treatments.
Besides treating skin cancer, we’re also serious about increasing awareness in our community. That’s why our office is one of the sponsors of the Run From the Rays event, a 5K and one mile run/walk in Boca Raton. Proceeds from the event go to selected charities which provide screening, treatment, education, and research of melanoma and other life-threatening forms of skin cancer. The event begins at 7 a.m. on April 28. Please join us.