Q: I am a new Florida resident and love being outside. How concerned should I be about skin cancer?
A: May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the perfect time to discuss this important topic! Skin cancer is no joke and should be a concern to everyone who lives or vacations in our Sunshine State. Let’s review some skin cancer basics, its various forms and risk factors — and tips for prevention.
Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells. Most commonly, skin cancer develops on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun, but it can also occur on skin that is usually covered.
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
- Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs in sun exposed areas of your body. It often appears as a waxy bump, a flat, flesh-colored or brown scar-like lesion or a bleeding or scabbing sore that heals and returns.
- Squamous cell carcinoma also typically will occur on sun exposed areas of the body especially on those with lighter skin. Squamous cell carcinoma will often appear as a firm red nodule or a flat lesion with a scaly and crusted surface.
- Melanoma is a skin cancer that can develop anywhere on the body. It may appear as a large brownish spot with darker speckles within, or a mole that bleeds or changes in color, size or feel. It may also appear as a small lesion with an irregular border, or dark lesions in a less exposed area of the body, like the undersides of your hands and feet.
Other skin cancers, like Kaposi sarcoma, Merkel cell carcinoma and sebaceous gland carcinoma are much less common, but equally troubling. Our column space is limited, but they warrant your internet research.
Risk factors that may increase the chance of skin cancer are light skin, blonde or red hair, light colored eyes, a history of sunburns, excessive sun exposure, living in sunny or high altitude climates, moles, family history, weakened immune system, and exposure to radiation.
Prevention is not that difficult. Make an effort to avoid the sun during peak hours of the day (10 AM – 2 PM) and wear sunscreen (year around!) — and/or protective clothing. DO NOT use tanning beds. Be aware that some medication may cause sensitivity to the sun. Check your skin regularly and head to the dermatologist once a year for a professional once over. When caught early, skin cancer has a high cure rate. Unchecked and untreated –it can kill.
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One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and a provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. To submit a question, send an email to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com.
Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services in Viera.