Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The ABCs of Skin Cancer Detection

When it comes to skin cancer, early detection is key. While it is important to schedule an annual exam with your dermatologist, there are also signs you can be on the lookout for in order to assist in early detection.

According to the American Melanoma Foundation, you should monitor the following four appearance characteristics of moles:

  • A for Asymmetry – if a mole has one half that is different from the other half 
  • B for Border Irregularity – if a mole has uneven, blurred or jagged edges
  • C for Color – if the color is uneven or if different shades of color are present
  • D for Diameter – if the diameter is greater than six millimeters (the diameter of a pencil eraser)

Another study by a group from NYU School of Medicine stresses the importance of also focusing on the next letter in line:
  • E for Evolution – if a mole changes in shape, size or color over time, or if there is itching, soreness or surface bleeding around the mole

According to the study, this additional characteristic refers to nodular melanoma, a type of melanoma that doesn’t fit specifically within the ABCD detection criteria. Nodular melanoma is the most aggressive type of melanoma and typically does not appear suspicious at first glance. However, 78% of patients with nodular melanoma noted that their lesions typically experienced some type of change in shape. In fact, the study concluded that moles that changed appearance were at least four times more likely to be diagnosed as melanoma. 
In order to protect yourself from melanoma, you must be proactive! It is crucial to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, but you may also monitor any suspicious moles by keeping ABCDE in mind. Remember to report any areas of concern to your doctor immediately, which will help stop melanoma in its tracks. 
To speak to a dermatologist or a member of our talented staff, call Greenville Dermatology today at 864-242-5872. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers Linked to Risk for Other Cancers

Did you know May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month? Although most of the focus will be on melanoma awareness, there are other types of skin cancer that are equally as important. In fact, one study shows that non-melanoma skin cancer may be an indication for other types of cancer.

According to the study, white people with non-melanoma skin cancer may be at greater risk for developing other forms of cancer. The researchers found that individuals with squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) had a 26 percent greater risk of eventually having another type of cancer than people with no history of cancer, while patients with basal cell carcinoma (BCC) had a 15 percent greater risk.

This could be particularly big news for women, who were found to be at greater risk than men. When considering only non-melanoma skin cancers, researchers found women with skin cancer had a 20 percent higher risk for other types of cancer, while men had an 11 percent greater risk. Specifically, the study showed women with non-melanoma skin cancer were at greater risk for melanoma, breast and lung cancers.

The study, led by Dr. Jiali Han, an associate professor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, examined two large U.S. studies involving more than 51,000 male health professionals and nearly 122,000 female nurses. Among white participants, researchers identified more than 36,000 cases of non-melanoma skin cancer and more than 29,000 new cases of other forms of cancer.

Although melanoma is more deadly, BCC and SCC are the most common types of skin cancer. BCCs are abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise on the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), while SCCs are uncontrolled growths that arise in the squamous cells (the upper layers of skin). Both are similar in appearance – often looking like open sores, red patches, shiny bumps, pink growths or scars – and may crust or bleed.

So how can you prevent BCC and SCC? By protecting your skin from the sun! Always wear a sunscreen of SPF 30 or greater when you’re going to be outside, and try to avoid prolonged time in the sun during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are most intense. Remember that UV rays can pass through clouds and windows, so don’t ignore sun protection on a cloudy day or when you’re driving in the car. Although you can’t undo sun damage, you can prevent additional damage and reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.

To speak with a dermatologist or a member of our talented staff, call Greenville Dermatology today at (864) 242-5872.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Red Hair Pigment May Increase Skin Cancer Risk

According to a new study, redheads may be more susceptible to getting skin cancer, even if they don’t spend a lot of time in the sun.

Dr. David Fisher, chief of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, first uncovered the link between hair pigment and melanoma last fall. Dr. Fisher and his team of researchers tested mice and found that at least half of mice with red fur developed melanoma, even though none of them had been exposed to any ultraviolet (UV) radiation. By comparison, only about 10 percent of mice without the redhead gene developed melanoma. 

Now researchers are asking why the body’s red hair pigment, known as pheomelanin, might create an increased risk for skin cancer.  

In Dr. Fisher’s new paper, published in the journal BioEssays, he proposes that pheomelanin could leave cells more vulnerable to DNA damage, thus increasing the risk for melanoma. Through research, Dr. Fisher and his team hope to figure out a way to prevent future cases of skin cancer.

"We are focusing on what the possibilities are, what the directions for new research are and how that could impact treatment," said Dr. Fisher. "In the mouse studies, it was possible to completely remove UV and there was still a major incidence of melanoma that was attributable to the red pigment."

Despite his research, Fisher says that UV rays still play a strong role in the development of skin cancer.

"I want to emphasize that we strongly believe UV is a contributor to melanoma, and UV may actually amplify this red pigment phenomenon," Dr. Fisher said. "It still is absolutely crucial for people to avoid sun exposure."

While all individuals should be careful in the sun, redheads should take additional precautions. This includes visiting a dermatologist for frequent body checks – even if there is no family history of skin cancer. For those with a family history of melanoma, they should visit their dermatologists every three months. This is crucial since melanoma could form on a part of the body that is not touched by UV rays.

Redheads should also avoid being in the sun for long hours and use a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 when they know they’re going to be in the sun.  

Greenville Dermatology’s revolutionary new MelaFind device can help detect melanoma at early, treatable stages. To schedule a skin exam or to speak with a dermatologist, please call us at (864) 242-5872.