July 2019 Hometown Health Newsletter: Summer Health 

Skin Protection


Want to take steps to help protect your skin? Taking a good look at your skin is a good place to start.

Do you see anything unusual? Any changes? 

Knowing how your skin normally looks is the first step to help spot a potential problem. And that’s a good thing. Skin cancer is highly treatable when caught early, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Take a good, long look
The key to a good skin check is thoroughness. Inspect your skin on a regular basis. Area by area, look at your:

  • Trunk — front, back and both sides
  • Face, neck, ears and scalp
  • Fingernails, palms, and upper and lower arms
  • Legs, buttocks and genital area
  • Feet, including toenails, soles and between the toes

Some areas, like the scalp, can be difficult to check by yourself. Use a handheld mirror for those hard-to-see areas — or ask a loved one to help you out.

Look for moles that are different or changing — or that itch or bleed. See your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Who’s looking?
Everyone should keep an eye out for skin changes. Fair-skinned people are at higher risk of skin cancer — but anyone can get it.

Let your doctor know if you have any of these risk factors:

  • A large number of moles — or large, flat moles with irregular shapes
  • Past sunburns, especially in childhood
  • A personal or family history of skin cancer
  • Prior artificial sunlight use, such as tanning beds

Four ways to help lower your risk
One of the best ways to help protect against skin cancer is to limit sun exposure. When venturing outdoors, you should:

  1. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Many experts recommend an SPF of 30 or higher. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label.
  2. Wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB rays.
  3. Cover up with long sleeves and pants — and choose a hat with a wide brim.
  4. Seek shade on sunny days, especially when the sun is most intense — usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Source: UHC

Skin Self-Exams


Do you know the ABCDEs of a skin cancer self-exam? It may help save your life.

One of your moles is changing. Or a new spot appears on your back. Would you even notice? You might not — unless you keep an eye on your skin.

Why it matters so much.
Of the 2 million or so skin cancers that occur every year, the vast majority are treatable varieties, mostly squamous or basal cell carcinomas.* A third type — melanoma — isn’t as common. But it’s the most serious and deadly form.

Here’s the thing to remember about any skin cancer: The sooner you find it, the better. When caught early, it’s highly treatable — even if it’s melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Ready for a selfie? Easy as A-B-C-D-E.
To perform a skin self-exam, get in front of a mirror with good lighting. Examine your bare skin from head to toe. Use a hand-held mirror — or ask a partner — to help check hard-to-see places, including your backside and scalp.

Check all your skin spots, including moles — where melanoma often starts. You can use these ABCDE rules to help remember potential signs:

  • Asymmetry.  One half of the mole looks different from the other half.
  • BorderThe mole has jagged or other irregular edges.
  • Color. The mole has varying shades of tan, brown and black — and sometimes white, red or blue.
  • DiameterThe mole is wider than the eraser on a pencil (about 1/4 inch). Most melanomas are larger than this — but they may be smaller.
  • EvolvingThe mole’s size, shape or color has changed.

Also watch for any spots that are painful, itch, bleed or just look different from your other skin spots.

If you find anything suspicious, be sure to tell your doctor.

Three more ways to help protect yourself.
Lessen your exposure to cancer-causing ultraviolet (UV) rays:

  1. Use sunscreen. Look for broad-spectrum products that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure they have an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15. Many experts recommend an SPF of 30 or higher.
  2. Seek shade when the sun’s most intense — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  3. Cover up. Wear clothing that protects your skin, such as pants, long sleeves, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

What to do next
Talk with your doctor about your personal skin cancer risk — it can affect people of all ages and skin colors. Ask what steps you can take to help protect yourself.



What Are the Treatment and Prevention Options?

GettyImages-506606616_cancer prevention

Lifestyle changes will not cure skin cancer once it exists. You should regularly check your skin for changes and new growths to help detect cancer early. A thorough skin exam by your physician at your annual wellness exam should be performed. Any suspicious skin lesion (an abnormal growth or change to an area of the skin) should promptly be brought to the attention of your primary care doctor or dermatologist.

Staying out of the sun and lowering your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can help prevent skin cancer. Ways to do this include covering up when outdoors (hats, long-sleeve shirts, etc.), reducing the time you spend in the sun, scheduling outdoor activities to avoid the strongest daylight, avoiding tanning beds and lamps, and using sunscreens. Note that sunscreens are only part of a prevention program. They should not be used to increase the amount of time spent in the sun. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends three strategies: sun avoidance, protective clothing, and broad-spectrum sunscreens (with an SPF of 30 or more).

There has been some confusion about SPF (Sun Protection Factor). There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. Both can increase the risk of skin cancer. UVB causes sunburn. The SPF rating in use prior to 2012 measured how well the product protects against burning from UVB. But the level of UVA protection may have be unknown or there may have been no UVA protection. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration implemented new rules for testing and labeling sunscreens. The final regulation allows sunscreen products that pass the FDA's test for protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays to be labeled as "Broad Spectrum." A product that is "Broad Spectrum" and has an SPF value of 15 or higher may state on the label that that it reduces the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging, when used as directed.

After a diagnosis of either basal cell or squamous cell cancer has been made you must be seen regularly for skin examinations by both a dermatologist and a surgical oncologist. It is important to understand that once you have had skin cancer, your risk for repeat cancer growths is much higher, so prevention and early identification is key. By not having regular skin exams every three to six months (or periods recommended by your doctor), a person could develop a cancer that cannot be surgically removed due to invasion into deeper tissues or spread to other parts of the body. The presence of pre-cancerous, sun-damaged skin (actinic keratosis), which can lead to squamous cell cancer, can be treated with topical medications or other treatments.

A skin biopsy should be performed on any suspicious growth (lesion). If the biopsy is to include the deeper parts of the skin (reticular dermis), it is recommended that a surgical oncologist perform this procedure. Since squamous cell cancer can sometimes spread to near-by lymph nodes, a lymph node exam is recommended if squamous cell cancer is suspected. If a doctor can feel an enlarged lymph node in a person with squamous cell cancer, then an immediate needle biopsy is required.

Drug Therapy
Creams, such as 5-fluorouracil, may be applied to the skin to treat premalignant sun-damaged skin (actinic keratosis) due to ultraviolet radiation. This can suppress and prevent the lesion from becoming a cancer. Surgery is the most effective way to treat skin cancer, but in cases where surgery alone in not sufficient to treat the basal cell cancer, new drugs are available.

Cancer-Specific Therapies
Radiation therapy uses high-energy x-rays to kill cancer cells in a particular area of the body. Radiation therapy is not commonly used to treat basal cell skin cancer but can be used after surgery for squamous cell cancers depending on the location of the surgery.

Surgery is commonly used to treat skin cancer. Smaller growths (lesions) may be removed using simpler techniques, such as electrodessication and curettage, where the lesion is heated and scraped off, or cryosurgery, where the cancer is frozen.

If growths recur, the doctor may use a microscopic technique to carefully map and remove cancer cells. This is called Mohs micrographic surgery.

The approach that is best will, in part, depend on how fast the cancer develops. If a biopsy shows the invasion of a nerve within the skin or of the lymph nodes, then treatment should be sought at a medical center with surgical oncologists trained in skin cancer management.

Source: WebMD.com Health Topics