Mona Khanna talks about the risks of developing skin cancer, how to detect skin cancer, and ways to help prevent skin cancer.
Tags:skin cancer 101,icyou,introduction to skin cancer,melanoma 101,skin cancer information,skin cancer prevention,skin cancer signs,skin cancer symptoms
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Mona Khanna: Well, cancer itself is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. So skin cancer is cancer that happens in your skin, on your face, over your body, it can really happen anywhere and it does occur in different places for many people. We do have some particular risk factors also.
What are the different types of skin cancer?
Mona Khanna: The different types of skin cancer are squamous cell skin cancer, basal cell skin cancer and then of course melanoma. Those are the three main types and they're all related to sun exposure. This first two squamous cell skin cancer and basal cell skin cancer are usually in the face, neck, ear area because they're very heavily reliant on sun exposure. That's why it's so important to use sun protection. The third type of skin cancer, melanoma, is the one you hear most about because found early, it can be highly treatable, unfortunately, it's often found very, very late, and we often hear patients dying within three, six months after they've been diagnosed, that of course, is also related to sun exposure.
Is skin cancer always caused by sun exposure?
Mona Khanna: You can develop melanoma in non-sun exposed areas. In those cases, you often have risk factors like a family history of it, but that is less common in developing it in some exposed areas.
What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?
Mona Khanna: What we usually tell people to look forward, we're talking about skin cancer, it can broken down into something very simple A, B, C, D, and E. The first is A, Asymmetry you look for a lesion that is not completely circular or completely outward, it has some asymmetric balance to it.
The second is B, border, we look for Border Irregularity whether the border is jagged, whether it is not completely smooth, that's a risk factor.
The third is color. We look for different variances of color within the same lesion, darker areas, lighter areas another risk factor.
The fourth is diameter. We look for lesions that are bigger. Those are more alarming than those that are smaller, although it can happen with small lesions. Look for a lesion that is larger than the size of a pencil eraser that usually the baseline. And the last, of course, is E that can stand evolving or elevated. What that means is a lesion that is progressing and looks uglier and worse, or a lesion that's elevated. If you close your eyes and run your finger across your skin, if you feel it being elevated as opposed to the rest of your skin that's another warning sign.
Do people feel sick when they have skin cancer?
Mona Khanna: If you show signs after developing skin cancer such as melanoma, they would be very, very, very late stage. It would be things like not feeling well, over warming fatigue, fever, weight loss, that would be very unusual to have a skin cancer that would have that kind of severity that you would actually feel those kind of symptoms. What instead you see is you see a lesion that's growing and has many of those A, B, C, D, E signs and that's when patients going to see their doctor and say what is this. What we want them to do is going to see their doctor early enough when they see any of those red flag signs before it's too late to be treated.
Are there risk factors for developing skin cancer?
Mona Khanna: We know that there are risk factors for skin cancer and they're very well documented. The first is family history, if it runs in the family, you're at higher risk. The second is your complexion, if you have a fair complexion you're at higher risk because you have fewer of the pigment containing cells in your skin. The third is if you had severe sunburn as a child, we know now that, that's a risk factor, possibly because you have sensitized your skin to the effects of the sun.
Now speaking about the sun, the next risk factor is going to be sun exposure. We're not talking about just the outdoors, we find the patients who sun themselves purposely in tanning salons and tanning boots, they often times have the increased exposure to the ultraviolet rays that are the going to be the one that cause skin cancer, and then another risk factor, of course, is if you have moles already on your skin, we call them nevuses.
If you have in abundance of them, not only in your face, but over rest of your body, you actually need to probably have a dermatologist to go and get them checked to make sure they're not changing and that they will turn into skin cancer.
Should people wear sunscreen to avoid developing skin cancer?
Mona Khanna: Everybody needs to wear sunscreen even if you are darker skin you have a less of a chance of developing melanoma, you still need to wear some kind of sunscreen or sunblock. The way we rate them now is through the SPF system that's the sun protection factor system. The higher the number, the more blocking of the ultraviolet rays is contained in that particular sunscreen or sunblock. We always advice patients to wear the highest number sunscreen or sunblock that they can tolerate, but nothing certainly less than 15.
How often should sunscreen be applied?
Mona Khanna: You should be applying sunscreen or sunblock once in the morning, and then if you're going to be out in the sun if say you're going to be at the beach, you're exposed to water, swimming in the pool or whatever it needs to be reapplied then every time after you go into the pool into the water, but if you are out in the sun, it should be reapplied every couple of hours because you're going to be sweating and when you sweat unfortunately you're going to sweat the sunscreen or sunblock off.
What are the best ways to prevent skin cancer?
Mona Khanna: The best ways to prevent getting skin cancer in the first place is first of all, stay out of the sun from 10 am in the morning to 4 pm in the afternoon, that's when the sun's rays are at their strongest and if you stay out of the sun during that time, no matter what your risk level is you're doing yourself a great service. The second is wear as much sunscreen and sunblock as possible, the highest level, but no lower than a Sun Protection Factor or SPF of 15.
Next is make sure you wear clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. Long sleeves, if you can tolerate it, even if it's very light clothing, wear a hat to cover your head, your nose, your ears, and your neck, wear sun glasses to protect your eyes and the last is there is something called sun guard, this is an additive that you can add to your wash when you're doing the laundry and its chemical will penetrate the fibers of your clothing and according the company, it's good for 20 washes, it adds actually that level of sunscreen and sun protection to your clothes that you may otherwise not have in them.
What is the prognosis for people with skin cancer?
Mona Khanna: Like most cancers the earlier that skin cancer is diagnosed, the better prognosis you have and that just make sense. So, what you need to be doing is you need to be examining yourself, particularly, if you have some of the risk factors that we talked about, if you have any moles, any lesions, make sure they're not growing or expressing any of the A, B, C, D, and E of skin cancer. If you do have skin cancer, get a treatment as quickly as possible.
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