Skin Cancer: Early detection saves lives

May 01, 2019Health Focus, Health Matters for Women

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). A staggering one in five people will develop skin cancer over the course of their lifetime. 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 ultraviolet (UV) radiation, 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 Cancer

Basal cell carcinomas, 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. These three types of skin cancers have one thing in common though—you need to catch them early.

Approximately 75% of all skin cancer deaths are from melanoma, which is a cancer of the pigment producing cells in the skin, known as melanocytes. The ACS reported in 2019 that new cases of melanoma are expected to increase by about 5.7%, from 91,270 news cases in 2018 to a projected estimate of 96,479 new cases in 2019. This is not necessarily bad news. More diagnoses could mean that people are generally becoming more educated about the warning signs for melanoma, as well as getting screened. Perhaps even more hopeful is the death rate for the disease is expected to decrease by 22% in 2019.

Melanoma begins on the surface of the skin where it is easy to see and treat. In fact, this most serious type of skin cancer is always curable when it’s found in its very early stages. If given time to grow, melanoma can grow down into the skin, ultimately reaching the blood and lymphatic vessels, and spread around the body (metastasize), causing life-threatening illness.

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,” saysDr. 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:

  • Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color).
  • Scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way a bump or nodule looks.
  • A sore that doesn’t heal.
  • The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark.
  • A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain.

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.

Your Eastern Idaho Skin Care Resources

Adam D. Wray, DO

As an experienced dermatologist and skin cancer specialist, Dr. Wray of the Bingham Memorial Dermatology Center has extensive training in pigmented and non-pigmented skin lesions, skin surgery, mole and wart removal, and skin cancer screenings. He enjoys spending time educating his patients about skin conditions and taking care of their needs by performing same-day biopsies, phototherapy, labs, and cosmetic procedures that enhance the skins look and feel. Dr. Wray is always welcoming new patients.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Wray, please call (208) 535-3637 in Idaho Falls, (208) 233-4455 in Pocatello and Soda Springs, or (208) 782-2930 in Blackfoot.

Julia McGee, PA-C

Julia McGee, a skincare specialist, has the knowledge and skills required to help you with all your skincare needs. Julia sees patients on the first floor of the Bingham Memorial Medical Plaza in Blackfoot, and at the Physicians and Surgeons Clinic of Pocatello.

To schedule a consultation, call her Blackfoot office at (208) 782-2930 or the Pocatello office at (208) 233-4455.

Jaclyn Brabec, PA-C

Jaclyn specializes in dermatological care, including assessing for dermal filler and Botox placement and in-office procedures, such as mole removal, biopsies, and cryotherapy. She is always welcoming new patients in Idaho Falls.

To schedule a consultation with Jaclyn in Idaho Falls, please call (208) 535-3637.

Jennilee Hill, FNP-C

Jennilee, a board-certified family nurse practitioner (FNP-C), is trained in dermatology—managing diseases of the skin, hair, and nails such as acne, eczema, warts, and cysts.

To schedule a consultation with Jenilee, please call (208) 782-2930 in Blackfoot and (208) 233-4455 in Pocatello.

Our content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.