Are you part of the cover up?

Are you part of the cover up?

Skin cancer has been called a lifestyle disease attributable to excessive exposure to ultra violet (UV) rays (e.g. sun burns, deep tans, tanning beds, etc.). Think about that, then consider that Maine and New Hampshire have among the highest rates of skin cancer in the United States. So, what should you know about detection, treatment and prevention of skin cancers?

Also, while you’re thinking, consider that your medical history can impact the cost or availability of life and disability insurance. These insurance products are closely underwritten with cancer being a flag for insurers.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcionoma (SCC) are the most common skin cancers caused by extensive or severe exposure to ultra violet rays. Though not normally life threatening, they grow and can disfigure your face or neck where most skin cancers occur.

Let’s start with lifetime prevention. Don’t let yourself or your children get burned. Sunburns are the playground of skin cancer. We need to cover up when we’re outdoors, no matter the season of the year. Even though everyone loves to be told they look as delicious as a lightly toasted marshmallow, the fact is we are setting ourselves up for being carved up sooner or later in life – and it’s no fun! Is having a divot on your nose really worth the adulation of being considered a bronzed god or goddess? Or for us bald guys, do we want a head that looks like a dimpled golf ball?

Frequently applied sun block (30 SPF or higher for extended exposure) to all exposed skin is a good start. Give particular attention to noses, ears and necks – areas that tend to stick out from beneath hats and scarves year round. Educate your kids that this is standard operating procedure when being outdoors.

Adding sun tanning oil without broad spectrum sun block is very much like adding oil to your frying pan – it simply helps crisp the meat as opposed to protecting it. And, of course, staying in the shade can help limit your exposure, altogether.

The president of the Skin Cancer Foundation gives no quarter at all to sun exposure. He recently wrote:

“Skin cancers of the eyelids account for 5-10 percent of all skin cancers, so sunglasses are essential.”

He also suggests “…a significant percentage of all cancers are on the lips, so use a lip balm with a comparable SPF.”

Now for the much more rare skin cancer. The term melanoma is not what you want to hear from your doctor as it is the most dangerous of the skin cancers and requires aggressive treatment. Read two stories of young women in Maine and New Hampshire who have thus far survived their melanoma diagnoses.

This form of skin cancer kills nearly 9,000 Americans annually. Melanoma, mutated skin cells that rapidly multiply, can spread (metastasize) to other areas and organs of the body which makes it so dangerous. The American Cancer Society estimates that 120,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed annually in the US. About 55 percent are invasive with about 57 percent of those occurring in men.

Recognizing warning signs early almost always can lead to complete cures according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

With melanoma, the foundation suggests the ABCDE review of your body.

  • Asymmetry of moles no matter what color they may be
  • Borders of a mole that are uneven, scalloped or notched
  • Colors of various shades; red, blue, tan, brown and black
  • Diameter greater than a quarter inch
  • Evolving in shape, color, elevation or bleeding, itching or crusting

BCC and SCC may be detected when you notice areas of skin that don’t heal or are patches of crusty pink or red growths.

As for treatment for basal cell and squamous cell cancers, a surgical approach developed by Dr. Frederick Mohs is proving to be the single most effective technique. When surgically removing cancer of any kind, the trick is to cut out the cancer and just enough surrounding healthy tissue to prevent continued spread of cancerous cells. With what is now known as Mohs surgery, a pathologist examines the excised (removed) tissue during surgery rather than guessing how deep or wide the spread may be. By removing ever-deeper and wider tissue samples, the surgeon can know when cancer-free skin has been reached. At that point, they can close the incision with confidence that the cancer likely has been removed.

We all can enjoy the outdoors our entire lives without jeopardizing our health, comfort or amazing good looks! So, lather up with sun block, dress appropriately and safely enjoy the outdoors.

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