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Skin Cancer, Getting the Facts
and Preventing It
Lauren Dansereau MS ANP
Western New England College
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
Currently about one million Americans each year are diagnosed with
One in thirty nine men and one in fifty five women will be diagnosed
with melanoma in their lifetime.
One person dies of melanoma almost every hour.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has determined
that UV radiation is a human carcinogen.
Personal history of skin cancer. Family history of skin cancer.
UV radiation- lifetime exposure affects risk of skin cancer. The US
Department of Health and Human Services has determined UV radiation is a
human carcinogen (like cigarettes!)
High levels of UV radiation increase risk
Fair skin that freckles or burns easily, blonde/red hair, light eyes greater risk.
However even those who tan easily are at risk.
Scars, burns, chronic inflammation/ulcers, skin diseases, actinic keratosis,
Bowen’s disease, radiation treatment.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer begins when normal cell growth goes wrong and disorderly.
Overgrowth occurs forming tumors which can be benign or malignant.
Benign growths- are NOT cancer. They can often be removed, rarely grow back,
and do not spread or invade other areas of the body.
Malignant growths- ARE cancer. Depending on when they are removed, they are
more serious than benign growths. They can be removed, sometimes grow back.
They can invade and damage nearby tissue and organs, spread/metastasize.
Skin Cancer Types
They are named for the skin cell types that become cancerous
Squamous and Basal Cell are the most common and curable and
are usually on the head, face, neck, and arms.
Basal Cell Cancer- most common on face, sun affected areas,
Squamous Cell Cancer -also sun affected areas but many not be
sun area, may spread to lymph nodes.
Melanoma- the third type is more lethal and 65-90% is caused by
Layers of Our Skin and Cells
Basal Cells, Squamous Cells and Melanocytes
Basal Cell Cancer
Most common cancer.
Arises in basal cells.
Within the deepest layer the
of epidermis layer of skin.
Squamous Cell Cancer
Second most common skin
Occurs within the squamous
Occurs more often after
chronic burns, infections.
May also occur in setting of
Melanoma is a cancer of the
pigment producing cells in
ABCDE’s of Melanoma
Draw a line through the middle and the mole is asymmetrical
More than one color or hue, lightening, darkening or ?differing
Size is bigger than a pencil eraser >6mm
Changing size, shape, quality. Also report any itching, flaking or bleeding.
What is UVA and UVB
UV-A (Aging, basal and squamous) 95% of UV radiation,
dominant tanning ray. Rays penetrate skin more deeply below
dermis and are most responsible for deeper damage. It is not
filtered by clouds or glass.
UV-B - (Burning and melanoma) rays superficial, reddening,
sunburn. Do not penetrate glass. More prevalent April-October,
Tanning salons emit both UV-A and UV-B rays.
What is SPF?
SPF- Sun Protection Factor.
The higher the SPF number= the greater protection time against sun’s
Example- if it takes a person 30 minutes to burn, apply a SPF 15. That
person can stay in the sun 15 times longer before burning = 7.5
However YOU MUST REAPPLY AT LEAST EVERY 2 HOURS **
What is a Tan?
Although tan appears as a “healthy glow”............ ????
Any tan is a sign of skin damage. It is the skin’s response and
defense to UV rays exposure.
Skin responds by producing melanin, a pigment that darkens
Over time, this response, tan, leads to damage, premature aging
and in some cases abnormal cell growth, cancer.
Protect Yourself in the Sun
Stay out of mid-day sun, 10am- 4pm.
Plan activities around the reported daily UV index.
Do not burn! 5 or more sunburns significantly increases your risk of
Protect yourself from UV radiation reflection by sand, water and ice.
*UV can go through light clothing, windows and clouds. Tint your
Wear tight woven fabrics, long sleeves, pants, wide brim hat, sunglasses
that absorb UV.
Sunscreens - Purchase a broad spectrum( filtering UVA and UVB rays),
SPF >15. Reapply every 2 hrs and as needed (swim/sweat), >2tbs.
Dangers of Indoor Tanning
The World Health Organization has determined that UV
radiation and UV rays from tanning beds cause cancer.
People who use tanning beds once a month before the age of 35
increase their melanoma risk by 75%
It is not safe to tan in the sun or in a tanning booth. Using a
tanning bed for 20 minutes is the same as spending 1-3 hours a
day at the beach with no sun protection at all.
Tanning beds put out 3-6 times the amount of radiation given
off by the sun.
For most people, 5-10 minutes of unprotected sun 2-3 times a
week is enough to help your skin make Vitamin D, which is
essential for your health, strong bones, immune system.
Getting more sun will not increase your Vitamin D level, but
will increase your risk of skin cancer.
You can get Vitamin D safely by consuming foods/beverages
such as orange juice, milk, and oily fish.
Also you can get Vitamin D via supplements.
How To Examine Your Skin
Once a month. After a shower or bath, in a well-lit room. Use a full length mirror
and a hand mirror.
Identify your normal moles, birthmarks, scars, their normal look and feel.
Check for anything new or different: “ugly duckling”, darker, red, flaky, raised,
size, shape, feel, skin colored bump-new, a sore that does not heal.
Head to toe(face, neck, ears, scalp), back, front, raise arms and right left sides,
arms, fingernails, palms, forearms (including undersides), and upper arms, legs,
genitals, buttocks, feet, soles of feet, toes, between toes.
You may take photos and record regularly. Report any changes to your
Skin examinations are recommended annually after age 20.