Skin Cancer Update

(Part one of two)


Since we are in summer, I would like to give an update on skin cancer. As far as prevention, the FDA, as of June of 2011, released new guidelines where sunscreen has to be broad spectrum which means must be effective against UVA as well as UVB; since both contribute to skin cancer. The sunscreen has to be water resistant for at least 40 – 80 minutes to prevent sunburn in individuals immersed in water. The SPF considered effective is 30 to 50 maximum effect and needs to be applied every three hours.


The most common types of skin cancer are basal cell, squamous and melanoma. Daily application of sunscreen decreases incidence of melanoma by 50%. Ac? ? Basal cell and squamous cell cancer are reduced by 30% with daily use of sunscreen. This is very important because the rate of skin cancer has been increasing over time the last decade.


Basal cell cancer starts from the basal cells of the skin, this type of skin cancer represents a “local” problem no causing metastases but can become a problem if left untreated. The appearance most commonly a skin lesion wit rounded elevated edges in the sun exposed areas of the skin.

Squamous cell cancer starts in the squamous cells of the skin and can erode the skin and underlying structures as well as give metastases if left untreated. The appearance is scaly firm lesion that does not heal and bleeds. Melanoma is the most serious of the skin cancers starting in the melanocytes. Melanoma can be found in sun exposed areas of the skin or in non exposed areas like the per anal as opposed to the non melanoma skin cancers. Melanoma can be very aggressive and spread to distant sites like lung, liver, bowel, bones and brain.


It is true that pale skin, tendency to burn natural blond or red hair are associated with higher risk of getting skin cancer, but keep in mind even African Americans can develop melanomas.

Be suspicious of asymmetry in moles, irregular blurred edges, and presence of different shades of brown and black in the sore mole, size greater than 6 millimeters, grown skin lesion, changing color, changing surface texture or signs of bleeding.


Any suspicious skin lesions or lesions changing in appearance should be evaluated by dermatologist. A proper skin exam should start from the scalp all the way down to the per anal region to palms and soles and in between toes and fingers.


All skin cancer can be “cured” if diagnosed early therefore if you have any concerns regarding your skin see your doctor who can refer you to a dermatologist. Part two will treatment options for skin cancer.