Summer is here and the temperatures are reaching over the 90’s. You and your family may be spending more time outside, but you should take precaution when enjoying the warmer weather. A declining ozone layer and spending more time outside has led to a dramatic increase in skin cancer. The two most common types of skin cancer are Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer, with about one million new cases estimated in the US each year. (Skin Cancer Foundation) A thousand of these cases are fatal due to the cancer spreading from around the nose, ears, eyes and scalp into the brain. Basal cells form the single deepest layer of the epidermis. Their job is to form the outer protective layer of the skin as they mature and migrate to the surface. Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) are a malignant tumor that arise in this layer. BCC are usually slow growing and rarely spread internal, but can cause significant local invasion and destruction. The risk factor include, age over 40 years, family history of BCC, light complexion, and long term frequent sun or tanning bed exposure and diminished immunity. BCC usually appear as a shiny, pearly bump or spot that may ulcerate, bleed or crust up. It can look like a non-healing dermatitis. Sometimes it may seem to heal when in fact the cancer is moving deeper.
The second most common form of skin cancer is Squamous cell carcinoma (SQCC) with over 250,000 new cases per year estimate in the United States. It arises in the Squamous cells that compose most of the upper layer of the skin. Most SQCC are not serious if treated early and properly but 2,500 will die each year by its spreading to distant organs. The most common type of fatal lung cancer is Squamous cell carcinoma of the lung cells. Anyone with a substantial history of sun exposure can develop Squamous cell carcinoma but persons with family history, light complexion, tanning booth exposure, or a weak immune system increase the potential for this disease. Also people with allergies, hay fever and other skin diseases are at greater risk. SQCC often appear as a red or pink bump with a tight crust or scale and frequently ulcerate. Prior to invading it goes through a phase called carcinoma-in-situ or Bowen's disease that is 100% curable but often looks like dermatitis that doesn't heal. Neither BCC nor SQCC progress to melanoma.
To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, one should start a complete sun protection program. The program that I recommend includes sunscreen of at least an SPF 30 that provides UVA blocking, sun clothes such as Sun Precautions, a tight weave cloth hat with at least a 4 inch brim and UV blocking sunglasses. Seek shade if you are not protected, and always avoid the sun during peak hours which are 10:00 am through 3:00 pm. Remember there is no safe tan! Sunscreen may not protect against BCC but it definitely protects against SQCC, Bowen's and precancerous Actinic Keratosis.
Actinic Keratosis is the most common sun related skin growth. These growths are premalignant, however it is estimated that 1 in 20 lesions eventually become Squamous Cell Carcinoma.
Skin care is important. Epionce was invented by Dr. Thornfeldt to reduce visible AK's as shown in 5 clinical studies 12 to 26 weeks long. Certain retinol and petrolatum containing products also reduce visible AK's with daily use. No moisturizers, alpha hydroxy acid, Vitamin C, Vitamin E or other antioxidant containing products have been shown in human studies to reduce AK's or prevent skin cancer. On the other hand, orally ingested Vitamin C 500 mgs, Vitamin E 200 IU, Ferulic Acid 30-60 mg and Melatonin 3- 6 mg taken nightly in combination was protective against sun and tanning booth light damage as was green tea extract at 200 mg and Heliacare at 1–3 pills daily.
There is no one best method to treat these types of skin cancer. Treatment options include surgery, x radiation, and 2 prescription creams, Aldara and 5 fluroracil. If you observe any of these skin changes or some other change in your skin, consult a trained health care provider immediately.
Tiffany McCray PA-C is employed by the Board Certified Dermatologist Carl Thornfeldt MD and practices at CT Derm PC in Fruitland. For additional information about Skin Cancer please call 208.452.7450.