When is the last time you had your skin checked?

By Dr. Hope Mitchell, FLT News Columnist

Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma.

More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma is responsible for the most deaths of all skin cancers, with nearly 9,000 people dying from it each year. It is also one of the most common types of cancer among U.S. adolescents and young adults. UVL exposure is estimated to cause up to 90 percent of melanomas.

Although genetic risk factors contribute to a person’s skin cancer risk, (e.g.. light skin color, blue/green eyes, blond/red hair, and skin that burns easily) most skin cancers are believed to be caused by a combination of genetic factors and exposure to UV radiation from both the sun and from artificial sources such as indoor tanning. Other risk factors include having a history of blistering sunburns as a child or teenager, living in sunny or high altitude climates, having many moles, having a weakened immune system and a family history of skin cancer.

Findings consistently document a strong association between increased risk of melanoma and indoor tanning use. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified indoor tanning devices as Class I human carcinogens on the basis of strong evidence linking indoor tanning to increased risk of skin cancer. A recent international analysis published in The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2014) that included 31 studies collectively, reported that individuals who reported ever indoor tanning had a 16-23 percent increased risk of melanoma over those who never indoor tanned. Indoor tanning also increases the risk of BCC and SCC by 29 percent and 67 percent respectively. In addition to increasing the risk of skin cancer, UVL exposure can have adverse effects on the skin, eyes and immune system. Excessive UVL exposure can damage the immune system; cause premature skin aging, including wrinkling, mottled pigmentation, and loss of elasticity; and damage eyes, causing cataracts and macular degeneration.

At your annual skin screening, your dermatologist will teach you how to identify the characteristics of malignant melanoma which are often described as the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma: asymmetry, border irregularity, color variability, diameter greater than 6 mm, or rapidly changing (evolving). One out of every three U.S. adults has been sunburned in the past year and most do not take recommended actions to protect themselves from the sun. Sun protection helps prevent the harmful effects of sun exposure, including sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin aging. Ideal sun protection involves several behaviors including: wearing protective clothing that adequately covers the arms, torso, and legs; wearing a hat that provides adequate shade to the whole head; seeking shade whenever possible; avoiding outdoor activities during periods of peak sunlight (typically between 11a.m. to 3 p.m.); and using broad spectrum sunscreen daily with frequent reapplication (equal to or greater than SPF 30).

Mitchell Dermatology will be giving FREE Skin Cancer Screenings at its 11th Annual Skin Cancer Screening on Saturday, May 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call 419-872-HOPE (4673) for more information.