Your Skin Merits Attention, too
At Women’s Health Medical Group, we’re all about women’s health. From obstetrics to gynecology, from hormone management to osteoporosis, we’re your resource. But we also are concerned about the overall health of our patients, and one area that is often overlooked is the skin. Now that we’re coming into the prime of summer sun here in Ft. Worth, we thought this blog would be a good time to address our skin.
Although the days of slathering on baby oil and lying out in the backyard doing our best imitation of a frying pan are long gone, and most of us know too much sun exposure is not good, you still may not know all you need to know about your skin and the possibility of skin cancer.
So, although we’re not dermatologists at Women’s Health Medical Group, here is some valuable information for our patients on the dangers of skin cancer.
The lighter the skin, the more the risk
Hopefully, if you’re over the age of 30, a yearly visit to a dermatologist is part of your health regimen, especially if you’ve spent a good deal of time in the sun. So, why is it that whenever you go, the doc is using up a bottle of liquid nitrogen on you, freezing off pre-cancerous growths; but your friend with the dark complexion never seems to have anything frozen or even of concern? It all comes down to melanin. Melanin is the pigment in the skin that helps protect it from the sun. Melanin is what is responsible for turning the skin a darker tone (tanning) after receiving sun exposure. This is a protection mechanism.
If you’re fair skinned then you simply have less melanin in your skin, so you have less protection. The ultraviolet rays from the sun can alter the genetic material in skin cells, causing them to mutate into cancerous cells. It is estimated that 40 to 50% of people with fair skin (who live to be at least 65 years of age) will develop at least one skin cancer in their lives.
Types of skin cancer
Maybe people mistakenly lump “skin cancer” into one group, but there is a major difference between squamous cell carcinomas and basil cell carcinomas versus melanoma. It comes down to sun exposure, but in different ways. Squamous and basal cell carcinomas are the result of the amount of overall sun exposure. Fair-skinned people who spend a lot of time outdoors will likely develop one or both of these two skin cancers. Melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, isn’t thought to come from prolonged sun exposure, but from the intensity. It is believed that melanoma is triggered by the scorching sunburns where the person’s skin blisters and peels afterwards. Research has shown that just one blistering sunburn during childhood doubles a person’s risk for developing melanoma later in life. And if you’re fair skinned, you’ve probably had a few of those peeling sunburns, so you need to keep on the alert.
Know your ABCDEs
These five letters can come in handy when looking for skin cancers on your skin.
- Asymmetry — If one half of the mole doesn’t match the other half, that’s a concern. Normal moles are symmetrical.
- Border — If the border or edges of your mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular, that is a reason to call a dermatologist. Melanoma lesions often have irregular borders.
- Color — Normal moles are a single shade throughout. If your mole has changed color or if it has different shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red, then it should be checked.
- Diameter — If a mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil it needs to be checked.
- Evolving — If a mole evolves by shrinking, growing larger, changing color, itching or bleeding, or other changes it should be checked. Melanoma lesions often grow in size or gain height rapidly.
We’re not dermatologists, but we care about the overall health of our patients. Toward that end, if you notice anything from the ABCs above (or if we see something during one of your appointments), we can recommend a number of great dermatologists in the area to send you to. Just keep an eye on your skin and if you need a referral, call us at (817) 346-5336.