Your skin is an amazing organ. In addition to being beautiful, your skin performs a series of vital functions. It regulates your body temperature, protects you from potentially harmful pathogens, detects environmental changes like intense heat or cold, and prevents water loss. It can also grow thick and luxurious hair!
However, sometimes the first signs of serious illness appear on the skin.
The most common form of cancer in the United States is skin cancer. While the overwhelming majority of cases are nonmelanoma skin cancers that aren’t typically life-threatening, a significant portion can become very serious.
Early detection is the best tool for assuring good outcomes. Additionally, if abnormalities are detected quickly, you are less likely to require invasive, lengthy rounds of treatment. A routine 30-minute skin check at with us could alert you to potentially significant skin changes, from easily treatable skin disorders to more serious conditions like cancer.
If you have been putting off a skin exam, here are a few facts about skin cancer that highlight the importance of routine screenings.
Skin Cancer Facts
According to a study published in 2010, approximately one-fifth of all Americans will have some type of skin cancer by the age of 70. There are three common forms of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma. This is the slowest-spreading form of skin cancer. It originates in the basal cells in the outer skin layer. If caught early, it can effectively be cured after one round of treatment. Basal cell carcinoma has a very low recurrence rate.
- Squamous cell carcinoma. This form of skin cancer originates within the squamous cells located in the outer and middle skin layers. While it can be aggressive and destroy surrounding tissues, it is not typically fatal.
- Malignant melanoma. Melanoma is a type of cancer that grows within the melanocyte cells that generate skin pigment. It is an extremely fast-spreading form of cancer that develops largely within existing moles. It is also the deadliest if left unaddressed.
Malignant melanoma at its earliest stage is called melanoma in situ, or stage 0 noninvasive melanoma. This stage means the tumor is localized and exists only at the epidermis (the very top skin layer)Stage I melanoma is still localized but has become invasive and has spread below the top layer of skin. At stages 0 and I, skin cancer has a survival rate of more than 98 percent. Once the cancer cells move beyond the localized stage more than 2 centimeters from the original tumor, it is called in-transit melanoma, or stage II melanoma. In-transit melanoma has a survival rate of approximately 62 percent.
If the cancer progresses, it can spread to surrounding tissues and possibly the lymphatic system. When it spreads to the lymph nodes, the cancer cells can be carried to the organs and throughout the body. When cancer reaches the lymph nodes, it is considered stage III melanoma. Sadly, the 5-year survival rate drops considerably at stage III, particularly if it has spread to distant organs.
Approximately 1% of all cases of skin cancer are invasive melanoma.
Malignant melanoma can go from noninvasive to invasive in a manner of weeks.
While a skin cancer diagnosis is scary, discovering an abnormality quickly could add decades to your life and preserve the health and appearance of your skin. In addition to having regular skin checks by a dermatologist, a routine home skin check will alert you to any potential concerns.
How You Can Protect Yourself
You’ve probably heard (or used) the expression: “I know that like I know the back of my hand.” But how well do you really know the back of your hand? Or the backs of your knees, for that matter? We might think that we are familiar with our own skin, but subtle changes are easy to miss. Also, a change that might seem unimportant – something we misidentify as a bruise or insect bite – could be something more sinister.
A 30-minute full-body skin check is a crucial early skin cancer detection solution. Here are some tips for performing a basic skin check at home. In addition to doing self-checks, scheduling an examination at West Dermatology will alert you to changes that could save your life.
West Dermatology offers expertise, experience, and technological innovations that deliver extremely accurate assessments and exceptional outcomes. We are dedicated to providing compassionate care tailored to our patients’ unique needs.
Love Your Skin! May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month; isn’t it a good time to take control of the health of your skin? You can keep your skin strong, supple, and healthy with the right care. Schedule an appointment at with us today.