Sunday, November 30, 2008

The ABC's of Skin Cancer & the Early detection

The first line of defense can save lives through early detection of skin
Dermatologists diagnose more than 850,000 Americans each year with basal cell carcinoma, which often appears in places on the body exposed to the sun, such as the face, arms and legs. It seldom metastasizes, but can be disfiguring-causing structural damage to features, for example-if left untreated.

An additional 250,000 or so are diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, which also usually appears in sun-touched areas. Approximately three to four percent of squamous cell carcinoma metastasize.

The skin cancer heavy hitter-melanoma-affects only about 50,000 Americans each year, but has a much greater change of metastasizing to the organs, blood stream and lymph nodes.

And many of us add to our risks by lifestyle choices, such as overexposure to the sun or tanning booths, which are a big no-no in the dermatology world. Smoking is also a risk factor. However, regular exercise helps reduce risk, as does a diet low in fats and high in antioxidants.

How YOU can Help and what do you look for? Your ABC's, for example, the well known melanoma detection mnemonic:
A- stands for ASYMMETRY- If you draw a line through this mole the two halves will not match. Normal moles are usually symmetrical.
B- stands for BORDER- irregular borders are suspicious; The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped or notched.
C- stands for COLOR- melanoma can be multicolored; Having a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma also become red, blue or some other color.
D- stand for DIAMETER- Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of a pencil eraser (1/4 inch/6 mm). They can be smaller when first detected.
E- stands for EVOLVING- Any change- in shape, size, color, elevation or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting-points to danger.

Other things to look for include a mole, birthmark, beauty mark or brown spot that appears after the age of 21; a spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode or bleed; or an open sore that doesn't heal within three weeks. Please pay more attention to your body.

source: Skin Cancer Foundation
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