Archive for skin cancer


melanoma skin facts you need to know

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Now that summer is here and we are all hoping to get some quality Vitamin D time, it is important to protect our skin from a potentially fatal disease.

Yes, that’s right; skin cancer can be fatal.

Melanoma is the most aggressive form of skin cancer and its’ incidence is on the rise.

Most of us are good about checking our faces, arms and legs for a worrisome change in a mole or spot. Hopefully, we can get someone to check our backs. Have you ever thought about the bottoms of your feet, fingernails or even your eyes!

These are all places that a sneaky and fatal melanoma can occur, in fact up to 30%. So what do you look for?

One type, nodular melanoma, appears as a reddened dome shaped lump on the skin that is usually new and not associated with an existing mole. It can occur any place you have skin.

Acral lentiginous melanoma occurs under nails, soles of feet and palms of the hand. It can be dangerous as it often goes unnoticed by both patients and providers. These types of melanoma can also occur in the nose and on mucous membranes. Check your nails and feet  regularly and look for anything new, and get any unexplained nose bleeds checked out.

Lentigo maligna melanoma can arise from flattened age spots that change over time. A spot on the sun exposed part of your skin that seems to spread and change shape should be evaluated by a dermatologist, especially if the area changes quickly.

Scalp melanomas are often missed unless you have thinning hair with easily visible scalp. Check your scalp once a month by running your fingers through your hair and getting someone to examine any irregular spots you feel. A good dermatology check should include the scalp.

The groin area is another area often skipped when thinking about skin cancer. Women can get melanoma of the vulva, and men can have this on their scrotum and penis. The anus is another area vulnerable to melanoma. Have unexplained itching, irritation or bleeding checked out by a medical provider.

Although rare, melanoma can occur within the eye, known as ocular melanoma. Have any irritation, or vision changes evaluated by an ophthalmologist. Wearing sunglasses have been suggested to help prevent this in people routinely exposed to a lot of sun although there is not actual studies showing this.

It is important to get any skin problems evaluated; but melanoma can occur in other areas as well and it is important to be mindful of changes in the look, feel and function of your skin and body.


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Sunscreen, Skin Cancer

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Sun light exposure is a good thing for us. It makes us feel better and we make vitamin D in our skin as a result of ultraviolet rays interaction with of all things Cholesterol. That said, just like all things good for us, too much, too often and we can be in trouble. Too much food, too frequently and you become obese with all the social and physical problems. Same with sunlight. There are two kinds of rays UVA and UVB. Both can cause advanced skin aging and skin cancer. UVB causes “Sun Burn”.

Most sunscreens block UVB. They prevent the burn and lessen the chance of skin cancer. If you are going to buy a sun screen, you may want to buy one that blocks both UVA and UVB. There has been some controversy on using nanoparticles – very tiny pieces – microscopic pieces – of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in sunscreens to block rays. They are very effective but were thought to possibly penetrate the skin and cause health problems. “Not so”, says the FDA, after doing some animal tests. What I have read indicated the greatest risk was in children. I am not 100% convinced that isn’t still true but they do appear safe for adults.

The FDA has made some changes in labeling mandatory by 2012 but top retailers should be implementing this now. No sun screen can claim an spf (sun protection factor) of greater than 50+. Those that have spf of 15 and block UVA and UVB can claim antiaging and skin cancer protection properties.

The American Academy of Dermatology says skin cancer is on the rise in women. They attribute this to sun bathing and to  tanning beds. The Academy recommends use of sunscreen with spf of 30 and to apply one ounce to cover the body. Think of a golf ball sized amount in your hand.

About 20 minutes of sun exposure 4 times a week between 10AM and 3PM to face, arms and legs is enough to produce adequate Vitamin D during sunny weather.

If you would like to know more and see some pictures and videos of skin cancer visit Bruce’s Squidoo lens on the subject Melanoma and other Skin Cancer

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Most of us have experienced the discomfort of itching associated with vaginal yeast infections at some point in our lives. We usually associate these vaginal yeast infections with our younger, reproductive years. When we reach menopause, we  do not expect these infections and the itching to  occur. There are many yeast creams available over the counter, so we usually go ahead and treat ourselves for a yeast infection. It is important to realize that other conditions can cause these same symptoms, which can explain why symptoms do not always go away after using these medicated creams. (Click on the next link to see a picture but warning – it is graphic)

Lichen Sclerosus is one such condition that can cause intractable and miserable itching, not usually with discharge. This is a condition which can have some pre-malignant potential, and it is important to have this diagnosed and treated for your quality of life.

Specialists and researchers are unsure what is the primary cause of lichen sclerosus, but a low estrogen state is one factor associated with this condition. The depth of tissue in the vulvae and sometimes anal area, becomes scarred. It is thin and the area acquires white or ivory patches. There is a higher risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma.

Signs and symptoms of Lichen Sclerosus include:

  • itching
  • closing to the vaginal opening with resulting painful intercourse
  • easy bruising and bleeding from the thin tissue
  • pain and discomfort in vulvae and/or anal area

A medical specialist can usually diagnose this with visual inspection and listening to a description of your symptoms. Sometimes, a biopsy is necessary to ensure the correct diagnosis.  This condition can be treated with high potency steroids. It is important to get a diagnosis because use of these steroids can actually make other conditions worse. Therefor,  you do not want to use any steroid creams you may happen to have at home without seeing a medical professional for confirmation of this condition.

If you have vaginal and vulvar pain and itching, please have your provider examine you. Do not continue to suffer and use OTC creams if they are not effective! If you have Lichen Sclerosus, make sure you have a specialist examine you regularly to ensure there are no signs of skin cancer.

More info at the National Lichen Sclerosus support group.

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Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all diagnosed cancers in the US with over 1 million new cases diagnosed yearly.

The cause of skin cancer is primarily felt to be the result of too much radiation, usually from the sun, coupled with inadequate DNA repair within the various types of skin cells. Damage to the cellular DNA can cause genetic mutations that then lead to skin cancer.

There are primarily 3 types of skin cancer which are the most common.

In order of prevalence

  • Basal Cell (BCC)
  • Squamous Cell (SCC)
  • Melanoma.

The skin has several layers.  Radiation has different intensities and penetration abilities which can cause  damage to the different layers.

The outer layer of skin forms the epidermis, underneath this is the dermis. Within the epidermis is the most superficial layer of squamous cells, underneath this layer are the basal cells and within them are the melanocytes (that make pigment).

The dermis houses blood vessels, lymph tissue, nerves, hair follicles all held in place by collagen.

The harmful sun radiation causing damage consists of UVA and UVB. Tanning beds involve UVA radiation only.

UVB is present in different intensities depending on time of day, season and location. It is responsible for burning of skin, can accelerate aging, and facilitate skin cancer.

UVA is capable of penetrating deeper in the skin layers, is present year round during all daylight hours and is equally as harmful to the skin.

So what are the 5  risk factors for skin cancer?

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  1. Excessive time in the sun or the occurrence of severe sunburns (especially before age 20).
  2. Having light colored skin, hair, and eyes
  3. Having a family member with skin cancer
  4. Being over the age of 50 years
  5. Other:
  • use of tanning beds
  • repeated medical or occupational exposure to radiation
  • being immune-compromised (cancer chemotherapy, HIV+, on drugs like Methotrexate for arthritis or other inflammatory disease)
  • occupational exposure to coal tar or arsenic.

How do I tell if a mole or spot might be skin cancer?

Dermatologist suggest using a system called ABCDE to evaluate for possible signs of skin cancer.

A- asymmetry.  A skin lesion that is or has become irregular in shape

B- border irregularity. A mole or spot has developed a fuzzy  or irregular shaped  border

C-color irregularity. A mole is not uniform in color, it has irregular spots within it of different shades  of brown or has black, red areas.

D-diameter of more than 6 mm or larger than a pencil eraser.

E-evolving. Any mole or lesion which is changing or looks different that other moles or spots.

Basal Cell cancer or BCC (cells within outer layer or epidermis) is the most common type of skin cancer.

Basal Cell Skin Cancer

Basal Cell Skin Cancer

It is often described as a fleshy bump occurring in sun exposed areas and more commonly in fair skinned individuals.

50% of people with a BCC will have a second cancer within their lifetime. BCC tend not to grow quickly and do not metastasize (spread) to other organs, but they can grow very deep and affect nerves and underlying bone. Cure rate if treated early is 95%.

Squamous Cell canceror SCC (superficial layer of cells within the epidermis) is a more aggressive cancer and can grow quickly.

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

Squamous Cell Skin Cancer

It can become large and cause local tissue destruction. SCC has the potential for metastasis. It also occurs primarily over sun exposed areas and also has a cure rate of up to 95% if treated early. SCC is more of a red, scaly lesion but can also have a bumpy appearance.

Melanoma is the most deadly of the skin cancers, accounting for 8,000 deaths a year. It is estimated that 100,000 new diagnoses per year are made. It begins in the melanocytes (with basal cell in epidermis) or pigment cells and can occur within an existing mole or a new mole. It can easily metastasize and early detection and treatment is key to survival! It is most commonly dark in color, sometimes blue/black, however ANY change in an existing mole can be a warning sign.

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Melanoma Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is not to be taken lightly, it is a serious cancer which is in most cases easily treatable if caught early. Sunscreen is a must to avoid the harmful radiation. Choose a sunscreen with ability to block and absorb both UVA and UVB.  Use a sunscreen all day, every day regardless of geographic location or time of year. (Maybe not for 20 minutes so you can make a little vitamin D in your skin but always all day after that)

Other references:
Melanoma and other Skin Cancers – Do You Have it?


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