By Frederick Schenk, CaseyGerry – As Published in Living Safer
Over the last few years, I have successfully undergone treatment for skin cancer on several occasions – underscoring the importance of regular skin checks and physician visits.
My personal battles with skin cancer are not uncommon – one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their lives. According to recent data published in the Archives of Dermatology, more than 2.5 million people develop more than 3.5 million nonmelonoma skin cancers – including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – each year, marking a 300 percent increase in skin cancer cases since 1994. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is also on the rise – which is especially alarming as it is the most deadly. Thankfully, my two episodes did not involve melanoma. Still, all suspected abnormalities must be evaluated by a qualified physician and any delay in doing so is potentially dangerous.
The vast majority of these common types of skin cancer are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun and tanning booths. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have identified UV light as a human carcinogen. Research shows that by damaging the skin’s cellular DNA, excessive UV radiation produces genetic mutations that can cause skin cancer.
But despite the dangers, people continue to bask in the sun unprotected. The latest figures confirm that skin cancer, the world’s most common cancer, is at epidemic proportions. There are more new cases of skin cancer reported each year than the cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined.
Take Preventative Measures
The good news? Skin cancer, especially nonmelanoma skin cancer, is treatable when caught early — making regular screening critical. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends everyone practice a monthly head-to-toe skin self-examination to detect new or changing growths. Skin cancers found and removed early nearly always curable – and many cancers can be caught with skin exams. The American Cancer Society offers the following tips for self-examination:
Skin cancers can appear in many shapes and sizes. The Skin Cancer Foundation says to be especially wary of:
The American Cancer Society recommends scheduling regular skin checks by a physician and pointing out areas of concern, especially if anything has just appeared or changed. If your doctor suspects skin cancer, he or she will do the proper exams and tests to make a diagnosis.
The Sun is Not Your Friend
Each year more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed – the majority of these are caused by ultraviolent rays from the sun or a tanning booth. Unprotected skin may become damaged by the sun’s dangerous ultraviolent rays in just 15 minutes. For this reason, a fundamental way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid the sun by following some very basic measures, recommended by the American Cancer Society:
If you plan to be in the sun for a long period of time, use SPF 30 or higher.
Common Risk Factors
Unfortunately, some people – including myself – are simply at higher risk for skin cancer. According the CDC, common risk factors include:
While skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, it is treatable and preventable.
Protect yourself: slather sunscreen, stay out of the sun, visit your doctor regularly and examine yourself carefully for any skin changes. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) sponsors annual free skin cancer screenings throughout the country.
Ultimately, public awareness and education is best way to reduce skin cancers. For more information, visit The American Cancer Society’s website at www.cancer.org.
Frederick Schenk is a partner with Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP, a San Diego-based plaintiffs’ law firm.