Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Why Early Detection is Crucial
The Importance of Early Detection of Skin Cancer
It seems like there’s a day devoted to just about everything now: coffee, cats, pancakes, the list goes on. And while these mini-celebrations are warranted and fun, it’s important to dedicate time to the serious issues in our society, too. That’s why the entire month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Of course, skin cancer should always be on our minds, as it is the most prominent form of cancer in the U.S. Still, Skin Cancer Awareness Month serves as a strong reminder of the prevalence and severity of this condition, as well as an opportunity to educate as many people as possible on how to prevent skin cancer in the first place.
In fact, skin cancer is highly preventable when compared to other types of cancer, in part because it is usually visible. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 85% of melanoma cases and 90% of nonmelanoma cases have to do with excessive ultraviolet radiation exposure (i.e. sunlight). In other words, the majority of skin cancer diagnoses could be avoided if people simply changed their habits. Additionally, knowing what the early signs of skin cancer are and receiving regular screenings from a dermatologist aid in catching skin cancer early on, which can save lives.
Let’s further detail why early detection is so crucial when it comes to stopping skin cancer.
High Cure Rate for Skin Cancer When Detected Early
Not only is skin cancer highly preventable — it is also highly curable when detected early enough. In fact, 99% of recently developed skin cancer cases are curable (primarily via Mohs micrographic surgery or local surgical excision). If left unchecked, though, even a minor squamous or basal cell carcinoma can spread and move deeper into one’s tissue. This aggressive metastasizing constitutes 75% of deaths associated with skin cancer, according to an AAFP study titled, “Early Detection and Treatment of Skin Cancer.” So, undergoing regular skin cancer screenings can literally be a matter of life and death.
Staying Engaged and Aware
Another advantage of receiving regular skin cancer screenings is that it keeps you in the loop regarding your body and level of risk. Indeed, dermatologists recommend that everyone understand the various risks and warning signs so they can keep tabs on themselves in between doctor visits. These skin cancer risk factors include:
- Age (older individuals at greater risk)
- Exposure to chemicals (coal, tar, tobacco, etc.)
- Radiation exposure
- Family health history (i.e. atypical mole syndrome)
- Gender/sex (males more at risk than females)
- Geographic location (hotter environments with more UV exposure pose greater threat)
- Race/skin tone/ethnicity (whites and those with lighter skin at greater risk)
- Medical conditions (HPV, chronic ulcers, burn scars, immune deficiencies, etc.)
- Occupation (outdoor workers at greater risk)
- Previous history of skin cancer
- Level and duration of sun exposure
Because skin cancer is visible, warning signs can be located visually, as long as the viewer knows what to look for. During a skin cancer screening, your dermatologist will carefully examine your skin for any suspicious skin-colored lesions which may indicate squamous or basal cell carcinomas. They will also perform a mole check up to look for various irregularities in shape, size, and color, and ask if you’ve noticed any significant changes in them. You can and should conduct these screenings on your own time, too, using a handheld mirror to view areas of your body otherwise impossible to see. Follow the ABCDEs of mole evaluations (asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution).
By keeping an eye on your own skin and checking in with your dermatologist at the recommended frequency, you can detect skin cancer early on and remove it before it spreads.
Anyone Can Develop Skin Cancer
It’s worth noting that while some individuals are at greater risk of a skin cancer prognosis than others, anyone and everyone can develop skin cancer. This means it’s crucial for everyone to take skin cancer seriously and receive regular screenings to detect it as soon as possible. This is what Skin Cancer Awareness Month is all about — informing the public of the widespread nature of skin cancer, and how taking small, simple steps can significantly reduce the prevalence and deadliness of this disease.
At Premier Dermatology Partners, we’re happy to continue educating communities about skin cancer and providing resources and care for those who need it most. To learn more about our mission, providers, and all the services we offer, contact us today.