Skin Cancer: Get Checked Before Summer

While it’s always important to have your skin checked for cancer on an annual basis, it’s even more essential to get a check-up before you start going out in the sun regularly during the summer. At the time of your appointment, your questions about sun protection may be answered so that you will be ready to safely spend many enjoyable hours outdoors.

“Skin cancer can occur anywhere — between the toes, the bottoms of feet, on the eye or eyelid, in the mouth, on the lips, or even on or near the genitalia. It’s not just relegated to the face, back or chest, as most people think. Plus, skin cancer is not always raised or colored; it can be flat, colorless, and relatively unassuming,” said Peter L Kopelson, M.D. “It’s always best to get checked before you start spending all that time in the sun again.”

Dermatologists, like Dr. Kopelson, are specifically trained to examine moles, identify their source, predict their growth pattern and understand the skin around them. And since they know best how to care for the skin, they are experts at removing moles without causing unsightly scars.

“Some people think they need to go to a plastic surgeon in order to avoid scarring. Yet, dermatologists have specific skills and training in skin healing and rejuvenation. At The Kopelson Clinic, we have an elegant method of mole removal that produces excellent cosmetic results, as well as thoroughness for diagnosis,” said Dr. Kopelson. “By using a combination of techniques, including the use of lasers, we can provide a renewed skin surface after removal.”

Reminder: Liberally apply sunscreen every day and throughout the day to lower your risk of developing skin cancer.

For more information about skin cancer checks, and to schedule an appointment, please call us at (310) 271-7400.

Skin cancer can affect anyone; therefore, people with all skin types must be vigilant about sun protection. However, those at highest risk for the development of any skin cancer are those with fair skin, light hair and light eyes.

Types of Skin Cancer

Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, affects nearly 800,000 Americans every year. It occurs most commonly on the face, ears, neck, scalp, shoulders and back due to excessive sunlight exposure. Warning signs include:

An open sore with rolled borders
A reddish scaly patch
A reddish-brown or pearly translucent bump or growth
A scar-like growth

Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, affects nearly 200,000 Americans every year. Like basal cell carcinoma, it occurs mostly on areas exposed to sunlight: face, neck, scalp, hands, shoulders, arms and back. However, when squamous cell carcinomas are present on the lips or in the mouth, they may be especially aggressive, making early detection imperative. Warning signs include:

Wart-like growth that forms a hardened crust and occasionally bleeds
Persistent scaly red patch with irregular borders that sometimes crusts or bleeds
Elevated growth with a crusted depression or center that may rapidly increase in size

Actinic Keratosis (AK)
AKs are considered precursors to squamous cell carcinomas and can vary in color from red to brown to gray or white. They are subtle and frequently may be felt more obviously than seen due to their slightly rough texture. AKs should be treated early to prevent their conversion to squamous cell carcinoma.

Malignant Melanoma
The most serious form of cancer, melanomas are lethal unless diagnosed and treated early in their development. They can occur anywhere on the body, whether the area is exposed to the sun or not. They can be flat or elevated; tiny to large; brown, red, white, blue, black, gray, multi-colored or colorless; smooth, rough, hard, soft. In short, melanomas are difficult to describe as they have many appearances. Dermatologists are trained to identify and biopsy anything suspicious for malignant melanoma.