The best defense against skin cancer is prevention

Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the United States, affecting more than 2 million Americans every year.  It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime.

There are three main types of skin cancer.  Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, which can be fatal if not treated early.   While melanoma accounts for a very small percentage of skin cancers, it is responsible for the majority of skin cancer related deaths.  Survival of patients with melanoma is directly correlated to the size of the cancer.  If the spot is detected early, before it has spread from the skin, more than 90% of patients will be cured.  This drops to approximately 15% once the cancer has spread.  The number of new cases of melanoma is rising faster than most of the other internal types of cancer, so public education is of the utmost importance.

The other two common skin cancers are collectively known a non-melanoma skin cancer.  The most common skin cancer in general is basal cell carcinoma.  They are rarely fatal, but they can destroy the skin and underlying tissue if not treated.  Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer.  These are also locally destruction and are rarely can be fatal if not treated.  The majority of non-melanoma skin cancers develop in skin areas damaged by ultraviolet light the sun.  They often start out as actinic keratoses, or precancerous spots, which are treated by Dermatologists to prevent them from turning into cancers.

The best defense is prevention

The best cure for skin cancer is prevention.  Even one blistering sunburn during childhood has been shown to double the risk of developing a melanoma later in life.  So the use of sun protection with sunscreens, sun protective clothing and hats, and avoidance of the sun during peak hours of the day are very important.

We can’t turn back the hands of time.  Regardless of past sun exposure, it is important to continue to protect yourself and see a Dermatologist for annual skin checks.  Many patients do not even realize they have are any potentially harmful spots on their bodies.  Dermatologists can detect potentially harmful spots and treat them early so they do not become a problem in the future.

Please also visit our Skin Cancer Awareness Campaign on Facebook.

Joshua Zeichner is a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.

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  • Anonymous

    The FDA waited 33 years to release new guidelines regulating sunscreen. Now they have carried out the previously proposed and rejected 2007 Sunscreen Safety Regulations Draft. Yet the draft itself says “FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer” (FDA 2007). Even worse, that there is reason to believe that sunscreen has the potential to increase the risk of melanoma.
    http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/sunscreens-exposed/sunscreens-exposed-9-surprising-truths/

    To put Kevin’s facts into perspective about one person dies every hour every day from melanoma and all the while we believed that FDA approved sunscreen was sufficient protection.

    This may be shocking, it’s just another classic example of the FDA’a inability to work effectively with business and consumer groups to develop an effective solution. Approval time drugs over the years have increased from just 7 months to a staggering 7.3 years. Fear and inaction drives the FDA’s activities. Approving dangerous drugs creates a huge backlash, but no one hears about the potential lifesaving drugs that are rejected. This fear creates a tendency to reject drugs or hold out for more research when in doubt.

  • Jesse_EngAmer

    The FDA waited 33 years to release new guidelines regulating sunscreen. Now they have carried out the previously proposed and rejected 2007 Sunscreen Safety Regulations Draft. Yet the draft itself says “FDA is not aware of data demonstrating that sunscreen use alone helps prevent skin cancer” (FDA 2007). Even worse, that there is reason to believe that sunscreen has the potential to increase the risk of melanoma.
    http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2011sunscreen/sunscreens-exposed/sunscreens-exposed-9-surprising-truths/

    To put Kevin’s facts into perspective about one person dies every hour every day from melanoma and all the while we believed that FDA approved sunscreen was sufficient protection.

    This may be shocking, it’s just another classic example of the FDA’a inability to work effectively with business and consumer groups to develop an effective solution. Approval time drugs over the years have increased from just 7 months to a staggering 7.3 years. Fear and inaction drives the FDA’s activities. Approving dangerous drugs creates a huge backlash, but no one hears about the potential lifesaving drugs that are rejected. This fear creates a tendency to reject drugs or hold out for more research when in doubt.

  • http://twitter.com/PatientCommando Patient Commando

    What Dr. Zeichner writes is important but only one thing is missing – getting the message out there in a compelling way.It doesn’t have to be complex, but has to be honest. And the most authentic way to convey this message is from patients themselves. Patient stories that come from a place of honesty and are well told have the power to change lives.Consider the story of David Cornfield who was taken by melanoma at age 32. A small foundation has discovered a viral way to promote the message of early detection, producing a stunning and impactful video “Dear 16 Year Old Me…” and posted on Youtube.Approaching 3 million views in only a couple of months, it presents the reality of melanoma as told by real patients.Look at what Lance Armstrong’s story has done for testicular cancer, a subject most 17-29 year old males wouldn’t “touch” a decade ago.Or the story of Terry Fox, a one-legged 22 year old with a singular ambition to run across Canada from coast-to-coast to promote cancer awareness. Terry didn’t make it and died within a year of starting his journey. But since then over 1/2 $billion has been raised in his memory.Watch the video. Share it. Young and old can reflect on its individual relevance. It promotes not only awareness, but benefits include active listening and empathy skills. These are life long skills that, when taken into doctors’ offices for any illness related episode, by either patient or doctor, have the power to change outcomes.posted on http://www.patientcommando.com/blog/?p=218