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Frequently Asked Questions

Posted By pcfadmin On March 24, 2011 @ 1:57 pm In | No Comments

How can I lower my risk for skin cancer? [1]
How do I check for skin cancer? [2]
What is the best way to protect my child from the sun? [3]
What kind of sunscreen should I use? [4]
What are the most common types of skin cancer? [5]
What is melanoma? [6]
Am I at risk for melanoma? [7]
How and where does melanoma appear? [8]
What are my chances of surviving melanoma? [9]
Is indoor tanning bad for you? [10]
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How can I lower my risk for skin cancer?

  1. Use sunscreen, especially SPF 15 or higher. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside and reapply every 2 hours.
  2. Find shade, particularly between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  3. Cover up. Minimize your skin’s exposure to sunlight during the peak times (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.).
  4. Wear a hat that covers your ears and neck.
  5. Use sunglasses.
  6. Protect your children. Burns early in life increase the risk for skin cancer later in life.
  7. Avoid tanning beds or other artificial lights.

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How do I check for skin cancer?

The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a well-lighted room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. Begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like. Check for anything new, especially a change in the size, shape, texture, or color of a mole. Also keep a look-out for sores that do not heal.

Check yourself from head to toe:

  1. Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
  2. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides) and upper arms.
  3. Examine the back, front and sides of your legs. Also look between the buttocks and around the genital area.
  4. Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, the soles and the spaces between the toes.
  5. Look at your face, neck, ears and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move hair to get a better look. You can also ask a relative or friend to check through your hair because this is difficult to do yourself.

It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away.

Promptly show your doctor any:

  • Suspicious skin area
  • Non-healing sore
  • Change in a mole or freckle

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What is the best way to protect my child from the sun?

Even one severe sunburn during childhood or teenage years can increase the risk of skin cancer later. Children get 80% of their lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18, so it is important to protect them. Protecting the skin during the first 18 years of life can reduce the risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 78%.

  • During the summer, do not let children go outdoors without sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or higher — even on cloudy days.
  • Reapply the sunscreen often, particularly if they go in water.
  • Minimize the time children spend in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Keep babies, 6 months or younger, out of the sun whenever possible.

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What kind of sunscreen should I use?

  • Choose sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 that blocks BOTH UVA and UVB rays. SPF 15 filters out 93% of more of the UVA rays that increase your risk for skin cancer. Talk to your dermatologist for specific product recommendations.
  • If you’ve had sun damage or have a precancerous mole, a sunscreen of SPF 30 is recommended for your face.
  • Use special sunscreen when you’ll be outside longer than usual. Choose a heavy duty sunscreen which stays on all day and binds to your skin. To cover your body, use enough sunscreen to fill a shot glass.
  • Remember, you will get better results from your sunscreen if you apply it 30 minutes before you go outside.

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What are the most common types of skin cancer?

The 3 most common types are:

  1. Basal cell
    It accounts for more than 90% of all skin cancers in the U.S. It is a slow-growing cancer that seldom spreads to other parts of the body.
  2. Squamous cell
    It is much less common than basal cell and is more likely to spread to other parts of the body.
  3. Melanoma
    This is the most serious type of skin cancer because it’s more likely to invade healthy tissue and spread to other parts of the body. It’s usually associated with moles.

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What is melanoma?

Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer. Melanoma usually appears as:

  • an irregular brown, black and/or red spot, or
  • an existing mole that begins to change color, size or shape.

While melanoma only represents about 3% of all skin cancers, it has the highest death rate of all types, and is more likely to spread into surrounding tissue.

Melanoma begins in skin cells called melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that make melanin, which gives skin its color. Melanin also protects the deeper layers of the skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. When people spend time in the sunlight, the melanocytes make more melanin and cause the skin to tan. This also happens when skin is exposed to other forms of ultraviolet light (such as in a tanning booth). If the skin receives too much ultraviolet light, the melanocytes may begin to grow abnormally and become cancerous. This condition is called melanoma.
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Am I at risk for melanoma?

Anyone who is exposed to a lot of sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at risk for melanoma. Some people, however, especially those with a family history of melanoma, have a higher risk of developing melanoma. Dark-skinned people and those who tan without burning can also get melanoma. Take a moment to answer these nine questions. If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you may have a higher risk for melanoma and should speak with your doctor. Even if you answer “No” to all of these questions, but have a mole that you are concerned about, you should consult a doctor.

  1. Do you have a family history of melanoma?
    Melanoma sometimes runs in families, so people with two or more close relatives who have had melanoma have an increased risk of developing melanoma themselves.
  2. Do you have unusual looking moles?
    Certain types of mole patterns are typical of an increased risk of getting melanoma.
  3. Have you been diagnosed with melanoma in the past?
    People who have already had melanoma have an increased risk of getting melanoma in another place.
  4. Do you have a weakened immune system?
    People with a weakened immune system — due to certain cancers, drugs given following organ transplants, or HIV/AIDS — have an increased risk of getting melanoma. Even if you have a previous scar or burn you could be at an increased risk.
  5. Do you have more than 50 ordinary moles?
    The risk of melanoma is greater for people with a large number of ordinary moles.
  6. Did you have one or more severe, blistering sunburns as a child or teenager?
    People who have had one or more severe, blistering sunburns as a child or teenager have an increased risk for melanoma. Sunburns in adulthood are also a risk factor for melanoma.
  7. Do you have freckles, fair skin or light eyes?
    Melanoma occurs more often in people with fair skin that freckles easily. Melanoma occurs more often in people with fair skin that burns easily. These people also usually have red or blond hair and blue eyes. Fair-skinned people have less melanin in their skin and therefore less protection against the sun’s damaging UV rays.
  8. Do you live in sunny climate or in a southern state?
    Melanoma is more common in people who live in areas with large amounts of UV radiation from the sun, such as the Southwestern United States.
  9. Do you frequently spend time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. without skin protection?
    UV radiation from the sun is most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Spending time in the sun during these hours increases your exposure to UV radiation and the risk for developing melanoma. If your job or personal hobbies (such as running, playing volleyball or going to the beach) have you outside during these peak hours see a dermatologist at least once a year.

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How and where does melanoma appear?

The first sign of melanoma is often a change in the size, shape, or color of a mole. But melanoma can also appear on the body as a new mole.

In men, melanoma most often shows up:

  • on the upper body, between the shoulders and hips
  • on the head and neck

In women, melanoma often develops on the lower legs.

In dark-skinned people, melanoma often appears:

  • under the fingernails or toenails
  • on the palms of the hands
  • on the soles of the feet

Although these are the most common places on the body for melanomas to appear, they can appear anywhere on the skin. That’s why it is important to always examine your skin to check for new moles or changes in moles.

If you have a mole that undergoes a change in size, configuration, or color — it should be biopsied. The ABCs of early diagnosis are an easy way to become familiar with the early signs of a cancerous melanoma:

  • Asymmetry of mole
  • Border irregularity
  • Color variegation
  • Diameter greater than 6 millimeters
  • Evolving size, shape or elevation

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What are my chances of surviving melanoma?

With early diagnosis and treatment, the chances of recovery are very good. The chance of getting melanoma increases as you get older, but people of any age can get melanoma. In fact, melanoma is one of the most common cancers in young adults. Each year, more than 50,000 people in the U.S. learn that they have melanoma.

Melanoma is a serious and sometimes life-threatening cancer. If melanoma is found and treated in its early stages, the chances of recovery are very good. If it is not found early, melanoma can grow deeper into the skin and spread to other parts of the body. This spread is called metastasis. Once melanoma has spread to other parts of the body beyond the skin, it is difficult to treat.
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Is indoor tanning bad for you?

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, has unequivocally linked sunbed tanning among young people to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In fact, they noted that the link between sunbed tanning and melanoma was “prominent and consistent.” They found a 75% increase in melanoma risk for those who first used sunbeds in their twenties or teens. No positive health effects of sunbed tanning were found.

*Sources: Skin Cancer Foundation; MD Anderson and its publication OncoLog; Melanoma.Com


Article printed from Prevent Cancer Foundation: http://preventcancer.org

URL to article: http://preventcancer.org/prevention/preventable-cancers/skin-cancer/faq/

URLs in this post:

[1] How can I lower my risk for skin cancer?: #lower-risk-skin-cancer

[2] How do I check for skin cancer?: #check-skin-cancer

[3] What is the best way to protect my child from the sun?: #protect-skin-cancer

[4] What kind of sunscreen should I use?: #sunscreen

[5] What are the most common types of skin cancer?: #common-skin-cancers

[6] What is melanoma?: #melanoma

[7] Am I at risk for melanoma?: #risk-melanoma

[8] How and where does melanoma appear?: #melanoma-appear

[9] What are my chances of surviving melanoma?: #surviving-melanoma

[10] Is indoor tanning bad for you?: #indoor-tanning

[11] Back to top: #top

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