She Didn’t Act on the Signs: Would You?
In recent years, many celebrities have used their expansive platform for good. A few years ago, actor Hugh Jackman opened up about his multiple bouts with skin cancer. Now, it is the former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres who is speaking up in hopes of raising awareness.
In a recent interview, Ms. Torres revealed that a growth on the back of her knee, a rather large one that she’s been ignoring, was diagnosed as melanoma skin cancer. Torres admitted to simply not paying attention to what she described as a “big spot” with an uneven surface. She recognized the warning sign of the spot being new, meaning she wasn’t born with it. And she accredited her fiancé with potentially saving her life because it was he who made the doctor’s appointment to have the growth examined.
Since her diagnosis, Torres has had at least one procedure. The growth has been removed. Two lymph nodes in her upper leg were also removed because cancer had spread to them. Further tests were ongoing to determine the extent of the initial spread. For Torres, this diagnosis was a self-proclaimed wake up call. In her interview, she admitted that she had no idea that skin cancer could spread to other parts of the body. This admission caught our attention. If she did not act on signs, how many others may also be unaware of the seriousness of suspicious growths?
Melanoma’s Unique Challenges
You may be well aware of the ABCs of skin cancer. You may even check your skin every now and then for signs like:
- Borer irregularity
- Color variations in a mole or growth
- Diameter that is larger than a pencil eraser
- Evolution in the size, color, or texture of a mole
Melanoma may not show up exactly as we expect it would. For instance, this type of cancer may show up on the bottom of the foot or in between the toes or fingers. Melanoma may develop beneath a fingernail or toenail. It may look the same color as surrounding sun spots or moles, but take on a scaly texture. Melanoma (and other skin cancers) may itch. They may feel painful at times and may bleed. Because melanoma is not the least bit “normal” when it comes to noticeable indicators, it is vital that we continue to raise awareness of the signs that cellular activity has run amuck.
The board-certified team at Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center in Exton, Coatesville, and Kennett Square perform full-body skin cancer screenings, testing, and treatment for the various types of skin cancer. To learn more about your skin, schedule a screening at 610.594.6660.
Together, We Can Face Melanoma
While we spend a good deal of time talking about the cosmetic aspects of skin care these days, there remains a strong need to keep skin cancer will within our awareness. This type being the most common of all cancers has led us to talk about the importance of sun protection and the need to avoid tanning beds (and yet tanning salons still exist all over the country). This is a start, but we need to keep looking ahead.
The first reaction that often occurs when a spot or mole is confirmed as skin cancer is a shock. This shock, in far too many instances, it typically preceded by denial. This is how it may go . . . “That’s a mole, not growth.” “These spots are just a part of aging, not a sign of sun damage.” The mind likes order. It wants to protect us from the frightening thought that we may need to undergo some medical procedure or treatment. This urge to deny may be especially strong when the potential for melanoma is on the table.
We’ve Got to Face Facts
Denial is understandable, yes; acceptable, no. Melanoma is a very serious condition. Treated early, though, there is a very high chance for success, meaning a good prognosis for long-term health. The physicians in our Exton, Coatesville, and Kennett Square offices are trained to perform Mohs Micrographic surgery for various forms of skin cancer. This particular removal procedure has had a consistently high (over 98%) success rate since its development. With this information, patients may feel much more comfortable moving forward with the further evaluation of a new or changing growth. The sooner, the better.
The state of cancers is measured in stages. Skin cancer such as melanoma begins in the epidermis, the uppermost layer of skin tissue. When malignant melanoma cells are localized within an original surface growth, skin cancer is measured as Stage 0, or in situ. Now is the best time to remove the growth. Over time, malignant cells penetrate deeper beneath the skin, progressing to Stages I and II, but remain in the category of localized cancer. This means greater success in treatment.
The longer cancer cells live within the skin, the more likely they are to permeate lymphatic fluid. In particular, melanoma tumors are known to leak malignant cells into this fluid, sending them straight to the lymph nodes in closest proximity to the original growth. At this stage, success rate declines to about 60% - and that is with more aggressive treatment. When malignant cells have spread or metastasized, to organs through the lymphatic system, success rate further declines, hovering at approximately 18%.
We do not broach the subject of skin cancer to frighten any person, but to spread awareness that skin cancer screenings, both in the office and at home, are invaluable to long-term health. For more information on how to protect your skin, contact us.
Sun Exposure: It’s not all Bad News
If we were to ask you about sun exposure, your immediate response might be that you know you need to stay out of the sun. Most people recognize the need for a quality sunscreen product anytime they are spending the day outdoors. Many take measures such as staying indoors during the mid-day hours and wearing UV protective clothing if they do need to be outside for more than a few minutes. There is no doubt that too much sunshine is a bad thing; but what about the other side of the coin? Sunlight also has some health-giving benefits that we shouldn’t overlook.
The Vitamin D Factor
Science has confirmed that vitamin D provides a valuable service to numerous bodily processes. More than 2,000 genes rely on this vitamin for optimal expression. Deficiency has been associated with some health concerns, ranging from depression to multiple sclerosis to heart disease and certain forms of cancer. When we spend time in the sunshine, we also encourage the proliferation of white blood cells, which boost immune function.
As we move from the darker, colder winter months, there is little that can feel better than turning your face up toward the sun. The warmth of sunlight does more than increasing actual body temperature; it can also be a vital aspect of endorphin synthesis in the brain.
Your dermatologist may be the last person you would expect to condone UV exposure. In reality, the benefits of sunlight cannot be denied, so we wouldn’t think to try. What we can do is encourage sun-safe habits. Every person is different in the makeup of their skin, so must approach UV exposure carefully. The average duration of exposure for beneficial effects is 5 to 15 minutes. Those with lighter skin want to stay in the shorter time frame, and may also want to sit in the sunshine earlier in the morning before the sun reaches full height and intensity. Anything more than 15 minutes outdoors requires sunscreen.
Are you prepared for summer? Contact Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center at 610-594-6660. We are happy to consult with you about the best sunscreen for your skin type or schedule your routine skin cancer screening.
It's Almost Summer. Do you Know your Sunscreen?
Summertime equals outdoor time for many families. And the more time we spend in the sun the greater our chance for sunburn. According to research, more people today are using sunscreen than previous generations. However, studies also indicate a large lack of awareness when it comes to the nature of sunscreen in general.
What does Sunscreen Really do?
When you apply sunscreen your expectation is that it will protect you from sunburn, but how does it work?
Sunscreen products are formulated with ingredients that reflect sunlight or absorb particles of light, essentially scattering it or blocking it before it can penetrate the epidermis. The SPF, or sun protection factor, indicates the percentage of UVB rays it filters. SPF is not an indicator for UVA blockage.
Many people mistakenly believe that a product's SPF number equates to overall strength. For instance, sunscreen with SPF 100 is thought to block all damaging rays. In reality, SPF is a more a measurement of time, not strength. SPF 30, for instance, means you can stay in the sun 30 times longer without sunburn than if you had no sunscreen. So, if you would normally burn within one minute of being in the sun, which some people feel they do, SPF 30 we keep you protected from sunburn for 30 minutes.
Sun protection factor also relates to the filtering capabilities of a given product. However double the SPF does not mean double the strength. SPF 30 effectively filters approximately 97% of UVB rays. SPF 50 only provides 1% greater protection, filtering 98% of UVB rays.
What your Skin Needs
Clearly, sunscreen is a necessity. Experts believe that most people receive adequate protection from an SPF 30, broad spectrum sunscreen. This type of product prevents too much penetration of both UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, it is advisable to visit your dermatologist on an annual basis to evaluate your skin for skin cancer. Experts believe that routine skin cancer screenings are a major reason for the decrease in deaths attributed to skin cancer.
We are happy to speak with you about skin cancer screening and about sunscreen. Contact Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center at 610-594-6660.
Skin Cancer 101
Skin cancer can be scary, but knowing more about it can help you protect your health. Keep reading to learn more about protecting your skin and your health.
What are the most common types of skin cancer?
The three major types of skin cancer include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma. These different types of cancers affect different layers of skin cells. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer and the one people are most familiar with.
What causes skin cancer?
In most cases, skin cancer is caused by damage to DNA. This interferes with the process of developing new skin cells and can result in tumors and other problems. In most cases, the DNA damage is the result of UV radiation from sunlight or tanning beds. People with a family history of skin cancer, fair skin, and a weaker immune system may have a higher risk of developing skin cancer.
Preventing Skin Cancer
UV radiation is the primary cause of DNA damage and skin cancer, so avoiding exposure to UV radiation is the most important way to protect your self from skin cancer.
- Never use tanning beds. If you want to have tanned looking skin, consider a spray tan.
- Do not lie out in the sun to get a tan and do not use tanning oil.
- Always wear sunscreen when spending time outdoors.
- Take extra precautions when you are in higher elevations where you have less protection from UV radiation.
- Wear clothing that covers your skin and wear a hat to shade your face and neck
- Apply moisturizer with sunscreen every morning for a base layer of protection so that you’ll be protected throughout the day.
- Keep sunscreen in the glove box of your car so that you can easily apply it if you realize you’ll be spending time outside.
- When possible, avoid spending time outside between 10 am and 4 pm when you’re more likely to get sunburned.
Skin Cancer Screenings
If you notice any changes in your skin it is important to see a dermatologist for a skin cancer screening. The earlier skin cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat.
Signs that you should get your skin checked include:
- Moles that change size, color, or shape
- Shiny, pearly, or waxy bumps on the skin
- Skin lesions
- A red nodule (small area of swollen cells) on the skin
- A family history of skin cancer
If you are concerned about skin cancer or other changes in your skin, schedule an appointment at the Dermatology and Skin Surgery Center to learn more about treatment options and protecting your skin.