The Mercury (Pottstown, PA)

Managing and preventing skin cancer

- By Dr. Daniel Shurman

Many people spend a considerab­le time outside in the sun, especially during the hot and sunny summer months. The time in the sun can be enjoyable, but also damaging to a person’s skin.

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States and worldwide. About every

1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Skin cancer is most frequently developed from sun rays and UV radiation.

There are three common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamos cell carcinoma and melanoma. The type of skin cancer a person gets is determined by where the cancer initiates.

If the cancer begins in skin cells, also known as basal cells, the person has basal sell skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is considered the most common type of skin cancer. It appears as a flesh-colored, pearl like bump, or as a pinkish patch of skin. Basal cell carcinoma most commonly develops in people that have fair skin. If a person is exposed to the sun frequently or tans indoors, basal cell carcinoma usually develops years later. It is commonly formed on the head, neck and arms; however, it can appear anywhere on the body.

The second most common type of skin cancer is squamos cell carcinoma. SCC often appears as a red, firm bump, scaly patch or a sore that heals and then re-opens. This form of skin cancer is most commonly developed on people who have light skin but can also develop in people who have darker skin. SCC forms on skin that gets frequent sun exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest and back. This type of skin cancer can grow deep into the skin, causing damage and disfigurem­ent.

Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer because it has a tendency to spread. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and frequently develops in a mole or suddenly appears as a new dark spot on the skin.

Early diagnosis and treatment are important in managing skin cancer. In order to manage skin cancer, visit a dermatolog­ist for a skin cancer screening. They can determine which type of skin cancer has developed and develop a treatment plan.

During a skin exam, the dermatolog­ist will examine the body for bumps or spots that look abnormal in color, size, shape or texture. Once examined, a biopsy of the growth is viewed for signs of skin cancer. The dermatolog­ist can then define the type and stage of skin cancer.

Treatment plans depend on the type of skin cancer that has been diagnosed. The standard treatments options for skin cancer are surgery, radiation therapy, chemothera­py, photodynam­ic therapy, immunother­apy, targeted therapy, a chemical peel and other drug therapies. Once treated, follow up tests may be needed to determine if the skin cancer has been eradicated.

The prevention of skin cancer is the best way to lower the chances of developmen­t. It is known that some risk factors for developing skin cancer cannot be fully avoided, like secondhand smoke and sun exposure; however, the more prevention, the lower the chance of developing skin cancer.

Practicing sun safety and avoiding ultraviole­t radiation are the common two ways in preventing skin cancer. When at all possible, stay in the shade, wear a hat with a wide brim to cover the face, head and ears, wear clothing that covers arms and legs and use a broadspect­rum sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher. To avoid UV rays, avoid the use of indoor tanning facilities.

Dr. Daniel Shurman is a dermatolog­ist with Dermatolog­y Partners in Amity Township. Dermatolog­y Partners has 22 locations located throughout Pennsylvan­ia and Delaware to serve the needs of the community. To schedule your annual skin cancer screening, call 888-895-3376. Visit www. dermpartne­ to find the location closest to you.

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