Skin Cancer: Early Detection Saves Lives
More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year and account for nearly half of all cancers in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). And the rate of skin cancer is even higher in Idaho with so many year-round outdoor activities, the higher elevation which exposes people to more intense UV rays, and the agricultural economy.
“As with most types of cancer, early detection saves lives,” says Dr. Adam D. Wray, a dermatologist and skin cancer specialist with Bingham Dermatology Center. Dr. Wray—who sees patients in Blackfoot, Pocatello, and, now, Soda Springs—highlights what you should know about skin cancer and the ABCDEs of what to look for, which just might save your life.
Three Main Skin Cancers
Basal, squarmous cell carcinomas, and melanoma are the three primary types of skin cancers, and are distinguished by the types of skin cells in which they grow and their physical appearance. The ACS reports that:
These three types of skin cancers have one thing in common though—you need to catch them early. Melanoma is almost always curable when it’s found in its very early stages.
Early Detection is Key
Once skin cancers get beyond their area of local destruction and into the bloodstream and lymph nodes, that’s when the trouble begins. “Ninety-nine percent of the game is knowing what your skin looks like normally,” says Dr. Wray. “By noticing changes in your skin, you can help your doctor find skin cancer before it turns deadly.”
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
Dr. Wray says, “You should examine your skin head-to-toe once a month, looking for any suspicious lesions.” Self-exams can help you identify potential skin cancers early, when they can almost always be completely cured. If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor:
Know the ABCDEs of Skin Cancer
In addition, physicians have developed a strategy for early recognition of the disease—the ABCDEs—which help people to identify a potentially suspicious lesion.
A – Asymmetry. If you draw an imaginary line through the mole, both halves should be even.
B – Border. The borders of early skin cancer tend to be uneven.
C – Color. Seeing a number of colors on one mole is an early warning sign.
D – Diameter. Melanoma is usually larger in diameter than ¼ inch (6 mm)—the size of a pencil eraser.
E – Evolving. When a mole is evolving, see a doctor. Any changes in size, shape, color, elevation, or any new symptom, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, points to danger.
It’s vital to take precautions to make yourself less vulnerable to skin cancer. “Protecting yourself from overexposure to the sun is important year-round, not just during the summer months when you’re out on the boat or at the beach,” says Dr. Wray. “Even during Idaho’s winter, the sun can still penetrate through cloud cover and expose your skin to harmful UV-rays.” But, no matter how many steps you take to protect yourself against skin cancer, be sure to have a thorough examination by a doctor at least once a year, just to be on the safe side.
Prepare for the Summer. Get your Skin Checked
As an experienced dermatologist and skin cancer specialist, Dr. Adam D. Wray of the Bingham Dermatology Center specializes in spotting, treating and removing skin cancer. He enjoys spending time educating his patients about skin conditions and completely taking care of their needs by performing same-day biopsies, phototherapy, labs, and more.
If you are concerned or notice any of the symptoms mentioned in this article, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Wray by calling 782-2930 in Blackfoot and 233-4455 in Pocatello and Soda Springs. Dr. Wray sees patients at the Bingham Memorial Medical Plaza in Blackfoot, the Physicians and Surgeons Clinic in Pocatello, and the Caribou Visiting Physicians Clinic in Soda Springs.
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