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Recognizing skin cancer


October 2014

The 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.

Schieke strongly 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.


This story ran in the October 2014 issue of: