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Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Everything You Need To Know About Skin Cancer

June 9, 2020
A woman with sun shaped sunscreen mark

What should you know about skin cancer?

  1. It Is The Most Common Type Of Cancer
  2. Ultraviolet (UV) Light Is The Common Cause Of Skin Cancer
  3. It Is Highly Preventable
  4. Kids Can Also Get Skin Cancer
  5. Symptoms And When To See A Doctor
  6. Options For Skin Cancer Treatment


May is skin cancer awareness month in the Philippines! Here at the Perpetual Help Medical Center-Las Pinas, we call awareness to promote education, prevention, and early detection towards the goal of a skin cancer-free world. To help you become more familiar, here is everything you need to know about skin cancer.


It Is The Most Common Type Of Cancer

Skin cancer cases, amongst other types, occur in greater numbers. Worldwide, there are 9,500 diagnoses every day, leading up to 3.5 million each year. There are 3 major types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Basal and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types that can be prevented through early detection. They affect more than 3 million individuals around the world each year.

Melanoma is the least common but is highly aggressive and deadly. Current estimates suggest that new melanoma cases will increase by 2% in 2020. While skin cancer is prevalent among Caucasians, it can also occur among African Americans, Latinos, and Asians in more rare yet fatal cases.


Ultraviolet (UV) Light Is The Common Cause Of Skin Cancer

A person applying sunscreen to their sunburned shoulder

Increased exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet (UV) light during one’s lifetime causes most skin cancers. UV rays from sunlight or tanning beds damage the skin’s DNA, leading to abnormal cell growth and producing cancer.

Sunburn also increases the risk of skin cancer. About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by both intermittent and cumulative long term sun exposure while 86% of melanomas are due to intense exposure. Hence, regular sunscreen is required to reduce one’s risk.


It Is Highly Preventable

While it is most common, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable types of cancer.

Regular use of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher has been proven to reduce the risk of developing non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers. Since UV rays are always present and can penetrate through glasses, wearing sunscreen on your skin is a must, even when indoors.

Other preventive measures include wearing sun-protective clothing, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses. When going out, always bring an umbrella or seek shade. It is also best to avoid long sun exposure between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM for the UV rays are most harmful in these hours. Lastly, regular self check-ups and visits to your dermatologist are advised.


Kids Can Also Get Skin Cancer

A doctor checking a child's arm for melanoma

Skin cancer is mostly associated with adults but children are also prone to it. According to this article in The National Center For Biotechnology Information, melanoma accounts for 3% of pediatric cancers. The risk factors for children are almost the same as adults. UV exposure, sunburn, and a family history of skin cancer make them more susceptible. The use of tanning beds amongst teens is also an evident risk.

While melanoma among children and adolescents is on the rise, it can also be highly prevented. Children should always wear sunscreen and avoid outdoor activities in the afternoon. Parents should also do regular skin checks on their children for abnormal lesions, spots, or sores. If any suspicious occurrences are found, seek pediatric care immediately.


Symptoms And When To See A Doctor

Since early detection of skin cancers determines its curability, being aware of its symptoms is vital. Unlike most cancers that lie beneath the body, skin cancers are visible, which makes them easy to detect. Examine your body from head to toe once a month for any of these warning signs: a sore that doesn’t heal, abnormal or atypical moles, and any lesions that itch or bleed. Be mindful of the ABCDE’s:

  • Asymmetry (a mole or spot with uneven parts)
  • Borders (irregular, ragged edges)
  • Colors (a mole that does not have one or same shades of color)
  • Diameter (greater than 6mm)
  • Evolution (change in size, shape, color, height).

If you notice anything suspicious, consult your dermatologist for a thorough examination and proper diagnosis.


Options For Skin Cancer Treatment

Skin Cancer surgery

Treatment options for skin cancer will vary depending on the location and size of the lesions and the overall health of the patient. Treatments may include:

  • Topical Treatments: Solutions with anti-cancer agents are applied to stimulate the body’s immune system. Applicable for early-stage basal cell carcinomas and non-cancerous lesions.
  • Excisional Surgery: This procedure requires the removal of the cancerous tissue and the normal skin around it.
  • Freezing: Early skin cancers are removed through liquid nitrogen.
  • Mohs Surgery: Skin growth is removed layer by layer until no tumor area remains. This is performed under high-risk tumors and in areas where skin preservation is necessary.
  • Chemotherapy: Systematic chemotherapy eliminates and slows down the growth of cancerous cells, especially if it has spread throughout the body.
  • Curettage, Electrodesiccation, and Cryotherapy: Layers of the tumor area are repeatedly scraped away with a circular blade. The edges are removed with an electric needle.
  • Radiation Therapy: Within 10-15 sessions, a high dose of radiation is used to eliminate the tumor or kill the remaining cancer cells after surgery. This is advantageous for patients who cannot undergo any surgical procedure.


Key Takeaway

The susceptibility of the general population to catch skin cancer is unnerving but, fortunately, we can easily prevent this through proper knowledge. Skin Cancer Awareness Month in the Philippines calls on us to inform ourselves, spread the word, and help save lives. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, get in touch with a dermatologist at the Perpetual Help Medical Center-Las Pinas.

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