Skin Cancer

By: Joan Stewart, RT(T), BA HCA, Clinical Services Project Coordinator, TCCC

The most common cancer in our society today is skin cancer. It is estimated there will be 3.5 million cases diagnosed in the US this year. While it is most prevalent in those with fair skin, anyone can get skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer followed by squamous cell and melanoma. People with a close relative diagnosed with melanoma are at a higher risk of getting melanoma and should have a physician check their moles and other spots at an annual skin check.

Treating skin cancer can be as easy as minor surgery with a local anesthetic. But what if your skin cancer surgery would be disfiguring? Or your overall health makes you a poor surgical candidate? In those cases, radiation therapy offers excellent results. Side effects from the radiotherapy approach are minimal such as reddening or peeling of the skin in the treatment area. These effects will pass within a few weeks.

We would prefer everyone reduce their risk of skin cancer and thus avoid those treatment choices. We encourage everyone to consider getting checked for skin cancer by their family physician or dermatologist. For those that need assistance, the Tri-Cities Cancer Center offers a free skin cancer screening event every spring. Please check our May newsletter for the next free skin cancer screening event.

How to Reduce Your Risk for Sunburn, Skin Cancer, and Early Skin Aging Caused by the Sun
Sun damage to the body is caused by invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Sunburn is a type of skin damage caused by the sun. Tanning is also a sign of the skin reacting to potentially damaging UV radiation by producing additional pigmentation that provides it with some—but often not enough—protection against sunburn.

Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. People of all skin colors are at risk for this damage. You can reduce your risk by:

  • Limiting your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.
  • Wearing clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun—such as long-sleeve shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brim hats. Sun-protective clothing is now available. (The FDA regulates these products only if the manufacturer intends to make a medical claim.)
  • Using broad spectrum sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) value of 15 or higher regularly and as directed. (Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays, two types of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.)

Always read the label to ensure you use your sunscreen correctly, and ask a health care professional before applying sunscreen to infants younger than 6 months.

In general, the FDA recommends that you use broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher, even on cloudy days, and apply it in the following ways:

  • Apply sunscreen liberally to all uncovered skin, especially your nose, ears, neck, hands, feet, and lips (but avoid putting it inside your mouth and eyes).
  • Reapply at least every two hours. And more often if you’re swimming or sweating. (Remember to read the label for
    your specific sunscreen. An average-size adult or child needs at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount it takes to fill a shot glass, to evenly cover the body.)
  • If you don’t have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head, or wear a hat.

Also know these other facts:

  • No sunscreen completely blocks UV radiation, and other protections are needed, too.
  • No sunscreens are waterproof

Portions of this have been reprinted from the following website:

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