Skin Cancer – May 1st marks the beginning of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, an annual campaign aimed at bringing skin cancer prevention and detection to center stage. Dr. Beata Rydzik of Portland’s Center for Dermatology and Laser Surgery discusses the importance of these efforts, emphasizing the need for regular skin cancer screenings.
“Each year, over 3.5 million skin cancer cases are diagnosed in over 2 million people – that represents more cases than breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancer combined,” reports Dr. Rydzik. “With such a high prevalence, it is crucial for patients to understand the steps they can take to prevent, detect, and treat this all-too-common disease.”
A topic often misunderstood, Dr. Rydzik offered some background on the different types of skin cancers men and women are susceptible to. “Skin cancers can be generally broken down into two categories: melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers,” explains Dr. Rydzik. “Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases, but it represents the deadliest form of the disease. While non-melanoma skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma tend to be less fatal, they still present a serious medical concern.”
Offering tips as to how patients can reduce their risk for developing skin cancer, Dr. Rydzik stated this: “While there are a number of risk factors involved in skin cancer, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the biggest culprit. Patients can minimize their exposure by avoiding the sun especially between the hours of 10AM to 4PM. If this cannot be helped be sure you wear sunscreen with an appropriate SPF. I recommend a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 40 and above. Reapplication after perspiration or swimming and every 2 hrs is also very important as no sunscreen that we put on in the morning lasts all day long. Most definitely steer away from tanning beds which have the highest concentration of UVB radiation, more so than natural sunlight. You can also cover up with loose-fitting clothing and wear hats with a large brim. Patients need to understand that there is no benefit to “pre-tanning” before going on a tropical vacation. If you follow the steps of reapplication you will not sunburn. “Pre-tanning” amplifies the “UV-load” on your skin which then increases your risk of skin cancer and leads to premature aging.”
Emphasizing the importance of skin cancer detection, Dr. Rydzik had this to say: “In the end, one of the most important weapons against skin cancer is regular screenings from a dermatologist. This is especially important for those who have a family history of skin cancer, those with a fair complexion, multiple moles and those who have noticed suspicious changes in their skin.”
Commenting on the importance of this month-long effort, Dr. Rydzik finished with this: “While skin cancer is certainly a serious condition, it is almost always treatable when caught early. We encourage patients to take a proactive role in their skin health not only during the month of May but all year long and contact us directly to schedule regular skin exams.”