At NY Skin RX we pride ourselves on prevention and early detection of skin cancer. We perform complete skin examinations, pay close attention to detail and photograph any moles or growths that need to be followed. Dr’s Wattenberg and Lefkowicz will discuss skin cancer prevention procedures and therapies with you during your visit. Education regarding skin cancer is the key to early detection and there are three types of skin cancer that account for nearly 100% of all diagnosed cases.
Types of skin cancer:
Basal Cell Carcinoma
The most common cancer in humans, BCC develops in more than 1 million people every year in the United States alone. About 80% of all skin cancers are BCC, cancer that develops in the basal cells (skin cells found in the lower part of the epidermis). Most BCCs appear on skin with a history of sun exposure, such as the face, ears, scalp, and upper trunk. The major risk factors for developing BCC are excessive and chronic sun exposure and fair skin. These tumors tend to grow slowly and very rarely metastasize. However, if left untreated, they may become large and disfiguring. Early, effective treatment of basal cell carcinoma has a cure rate of more than 95%. However, new basal cell carcinomas can develop after treatment, so continued self-examination and regular examination by a dermatologist are important.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common skin cancer. This cancer begins in the squamous cells (skin cells found in the upper layer of the epidermis). Unlike basal cell carcinoma, this form of cancer can metastasize (spread to other parts of the body); therefore, it is important to get diagnosed and treated early. The major risk factors for developing squamous cell carcinoma include excessive, chronic sun exposure, chronic exposure to x-rays, long-term treatment with immunosuppressive drugs and fair skin. While most commonly found on sun-exposed areas of the body, it can develop anywhere, including the inside of the mouth and genitalia. When found early and treated properly, the cure rate for squamous cell carcinoma is over 95 percent.
Accounting for about 4% of all diagnosed skin cancers, melanoma begins in the melanocytes (cells that give skin its color). Melanoma has been coined “the most lethal form of skin cancer” because it can rapidly spread. With early detection and proper treatment, the cure rate for melanoma is about 95%. Once it spreads, the prognosis is poor. Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole. Excessive sun exposure, especially sunburn, is the most important preventable cause of melanoma. Light-skinned individuals are at particular risk. Heredity also plays a role, as an individual has an increased chance of developing melanoma if a direct relative (parent, sibling or child) has had melanoma. Atypical moles, which may run in families, and a large number of moles, can serve as markers for people at increased risk for developing melanoma. To detect skin cancer in its early and most treatable stage, everyone should perform regular self- examinations of their skin. Today, more than half of all diagnosed melanomas are first identified by the patient.
Self-examination is done using the A-B-C-D-E criteria:
- A = Asymmetry (the left side of the lesion is unlike the right side)
- B = Border Irregularity (the lesion has a scalloped or poorly defined border)
- C = Color Variation (not all parts of the lesion are the same color; within the lesion may be patches of tan, brown, black, pink, white or blue)
- D = Diameter (while melanomas are usually greater than 6mm in diameter when diagnosed, they can be smaller)
- E = Evolving (any mole that is changing over time)
Some melanomas do not conform to the A-B-C-D-E criteria, so any suspicious mole should be examined by a dermatologist. Any mole that appears different from others, or which changes, itches, or bleeds even if it is smaller than 6 millimeters, should be seen by a dermatologist.
Sun Protection Practices
Sun protection can significantly decrease a person’s risk of developing skin cancer. Sun protection practices include:
- The most effective preventive method is sun avoidance. Seek shade between the hours of 10:00am to 4:00pm. Avoid deliberate tanning. Tanning beds and sun lamps are just as dangerous because they, too, emit enough UV radiation to cause premature aging and skin cancer.
- Generously apply a water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 year-round to all exposed skin. It should provide broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. Also,please remember to check the expiration date on your sunscreen.
- Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible. Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun. This can increase your risk chance of sunburn.
Skin Cancer Prevention and Treatment in New York City
If you experience any worrisome spots on your skin, get them checked by a board-certified dermatologist such as Drs. Debra Wattenberg and Ilyse Lefkowicz at NY Skin RX. Since skin cancer often does not present noticeable symptoms in the early stages, it is important to receive routine checkups by a dermatologist, especially if you are prone to precancerous or cancerous spots. Get peace of mind with a skin cancer check today. To learn more about our skin cancer prevention and treatment program and how it could benefit you, give us a call at (212) 288-3200 to schedule a consultation.
NY Skin RX provides state-of-the-art cosmetic and medical dermatology services to patients in Manhattan, the Upper East Side, and throughout New York City.