Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States with over 5 million new cases every year. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, about 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. The majority of skin cancers are associated with ultraviolet radiation exposure (sunlight or tanning bed use), especially in those with blistering sunburns and early childhood/adolescent sun exposure. Ultraviolet radiation leads to DNA damage and mutations in skin cells, which causes them to multiply rapidly and form cancers. Most skin cancers are preventable with the daily use of sunscreen (preferably zinc oxide-based physical sunscreens) and sun protection/avoidance measures beginning in childhood.

The main types of skin cancer are 1) Basal cell carcinoma, 2) Squamous cell carcinoma, 3) Melanoma, and 4) Merkel cell carcinoma. These often occur in sun exposed areas like the scalp, face, neck, upper chest, back, arms, and hands. The back of the legs is a common site for melanoma in women who have a history of sunbathing. Skin cancers can have many different faces — they can look like pink or brown bumps, scaly patches, or nodules that are changing in size/shape/color, bleeding or non-healing.

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A basal cell carcinoma.

With regular visits to your board-certified dermatologist, it is possible to diagnose skin cancer very early on. In-office treatments can be performed with very high cure rates. Many times, your dermatologist will provide treatment for precancerous lesions before they become malignant. Please make your appointment today for a full skin evaluation, especially if you are unsure of the last one you had!

What are some things you can do to help prevent skin cancer?

• Always use a broad spectrum sunscreen that covers UVA/UVB with an SPF of 30 or higher (zinc oxide based sunscreen is preferred). Reapply sunscreen every 1.5-2 hours when outdoors and always after water exposure (even if the sunscreen says “water resistant”). Did you know that most people don’t apply enough sunscreen? Apply at least 1 ounce of sunscreen per application to attain the SPF listed on the bottle. Avoid sunscreen use in infants younger than 6 months due to increased systemic absorption in this age group. Sun protective clothing/sun avoidance measures are extremely important even if you have sunscreen on.

• Use sun protective clothing (wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, UV shirts, UV sleeves, etc), try to seek shade when possible, and avoid mid-day exposure between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Avoid getting a tan or a sunburn (naturally or with tanning beds)! Tanned skin is damaged skin and it increases your risk of skin cancer and wrinkles!

• Perform monthly self-skin exams looking for any new or changing spots (changing in size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, non-healing). Any spots/moles/growths that are changing or concerning to you should be brought up with your board-certified dermatologist. Remember, skin cancer does not have to be symptomatic! If you are not sure, make an appointment.

• Make an appointment with your board-certified dermatologist for regular skin screenings and to evaluate any abnormal lesions.

Aura Dermatology at Robbinsville, 17 Main Street, Suite 304, Robbinsville. 609-415-DERM (3376).

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