good news is that found early, most skin cancers are curable. To find
it early, you need to know what to look for.
Melanoma is the
most dangerous form of skin cancer, says Dr. Stefan Schieke, a
dermatologist with the Multidiscipliary Melanoma Clinic at Froedtert
and the Medical College of Wisconsin. When not caught at an early
stage, it has a high likelihood of spreading and potentially becoming
lethal. "People with fair skin, blond hair, many atypical moles,
and those who have had a bad sunburn are at greater risk," he
says. Warning signs are listed in the ABCDE chart below.
The two other
major skin cancers — basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma (BCC and
SCC) — are not to be taken lightly, Schieke says. While not often
fatal, these non-melanoma skin cancers can be destructive if not
detected and treated early. "We see this a lot with people who
work outside, or those who have spent a lot of time at the lake or
beach," he says.
The incidence of
skin cancer is on the rise despite warnings from the medical
community. A recent study in the Archives of Dermatology revealed a
more than 300 percent increase in skin cancer incidence since 1994,
when rates were last estimated. "Unfortunately, we are seeing an
increase in skin cancers in young women. One of the major causes is
tanning beds," Schieke explains.
suggests examining your skin regularly, looking for any suspicious
lesions. Self-exams can help you identify potential skin cancers
early. "We must catch it early to cure it," he says.