Skin Cancer Diagnosis and Prevention
All people, regardless of their skin type, are at risk for developing skin cancer. Those with a history of skin cancer are at a higher risk for developing more tumors. The following warning signs could be an indication that a growth may be cancerous:
- A new growth on an adult that does not disappear within 4 to 6 weeks
- A skin lesion that grows larger and turns pearly, translucent, brown, black or multi-colored
- A mole, birthmark or beauty mark that grows larger, changes color, texture or shape
- An open sore or wound that doesn't heal for more than 4 weeks or heals and then reopens or recurs
- A skin spot or growth that scales, scabs, oozes, erodes or bleeds for several weeks
- A growth with changes in sensation such as itching, burning, pain or tenderness
- Any worrisome skin lesion
Prevent Skin Cancer with PROTECT
Use the mnemonic PROTECT to remember these important strategies for sun protection and early detection and prevention of skin cancer:
PROTECT Yourself from the Sun
- Generously apply a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB rays at least 15 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
- Cover all sun-exposed areas including your lips.
- Reapply sunscreen every few hours, and after swimming, sweating or exercising.
- Wear sun-protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, broad-brimmed hats and sunglasses when outdoors for extended periods of time or if you have any of the risk factors below.
RISK Factor Awareness
Risk factors for developing skin cancer include:
- Increased age
- Fair skin that burns and freckles easily and tans poorly
- History of sunburns
- History of excessive sun exposure
- Past history of skin cancer or precancerous lesions
- Family history of skin cancer
- Presence of atypical moles or numerous moles
- Damaged skin (scars, burns)
- History of radiation exposure
- Environmental exposure to hazardous chemicals
- Compromised immune system (immunosuppressive medications)
OUTDOOR Activity Planning
- The sun’s rays are most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Even on cloudy days, the majority of ultraviolet (UV) rays reach the ground and are reflected by sand, snow and water.
- Plan for outdoor activities either early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the sun’s strongest rays, even when you can’t see the sun.
TANNING Beds Should be Avoided
- People who use tanning beds are at higher risk for developing skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma.
- Tanning beds are not a safer way to tan. Tanning represents the skin’s response to sun damage.
EXAMINE Your Skin Monthly
- Check for any new growths or changes in existing moles on the skin by examining your skin each month. See Skin Cancer Diagnosis and Prevention to know what to look for.
CONSULT Your Dermatologist Once Per Year
- Even if you don’t have any of the above Risk Factors for skin cancer, you should see your dermatologist at least once per year. He or she can complete a thorough history and physical exam to determine your skin’s health and proper maintenance.
TAKE Your Skin Seriously
- Sun protection saves lives.
- More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, and some can cause of other diseases and death.
- Take your skin and these sun protection strategies seriously to minimize your risk for developing skin cancer and other sun-related skin conditions.
UV Radiation and Skin Cancer
Ultraviolet (UV) light on the skin from sunlight or tanning beds can damage the DNA in the upper layers of our skin. Normally, the body has the ability to repair this damage and restore cells to their normal function. However, repeated exposure to UV light can increase the damage, which may overcome your body's ability to repair it.
Uncontrolled, disorganized growth of damaged cells is cancer. As the cancer grows, it replaces normal cells of the skin and may disrupt their function. Fortunately, skin cancer begins on the surface where it is visible to the naked eye. Skin cancer can be easily treated and cured if detected early. If allowed to spread, skin cancer can be fatal.
The skin is our body's largest organ, and skin cancer is the world's most common type of cancer. More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States alone. Early detection and treatment is key to recovery.
Types of Skin Cancer
There are two main categories of skin cancer:
- Melanoma: Cancer of the melanocytes, the cells that cause the skin to tan or color
- Nonmelanoma: Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma
All types of skin cancers differ in appearance, tissue structure, and level of aggressiveness. At UCLA, we treat a wide range of skin cancer types. Learn more about dermatologic surgery at UCLA and our comprehensive surgical options for skin cancer.
Skin, Sun and Aging
As we age, ultraviolet light has many negative effects on the skin. Chronic sun damage, movement of facial muscles and a loss of collagen and elastic tissue leads to:
- Roughness and dryness of the skin
- Brown discolorations
- Broken blood vessels
- Unwanted lines around the forehead, eyes, nose and mouth
- Wrinkles and folds
- Sagging skin
Skin aging results from the interaction between intrinsic and extrinsic factors over time. Intrinsic, or internal factors, are under genetic and hormonal influence. Factors affecting extrinsic aging include:
- Ultraviolet light
- Temperature extremes
- Illness and disease
UCLA’s Cosmetic Dermatology program offers the newest, most advanced treatment options to help restore a healthier, youthful appearance. Our nationally known, skilled dermatologists specialize in a variety of procedures and services to improve and enhance your skin. We use minimally invasive techniques to help you achieve your goals for the cosmetic management of your skin.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 825-6911.