Cancer Concerns

When it comes to hikers with skin damage, not all cancers are created equal.
Avatar:
Author:
Publish date:
Social count:
0
When it comes to hikers with skin damage, not all cancers are created equal.

When it comes to skin damage, not all cancers are created equal.

The message is simple but powerful: The earlier you detect skin cancer, the better your chances. Here's what to look for:

Basal Cell Carcinoma: More than half a million Americans are diagnosed with it annually, making basal cell the most prevalent type of cancer. Ultraviolet light causes basal cells in the skin's top layer to reproduce too fast, eventually resulting in a tumor. It rarely spreads. Dermatologists believe long-term accumulation of UV radiation (which includes tanning) is responsible for basal and squamous cell carcinomas.

Risk factors: Years of long-term sun exposure; fair skin; blue eyes.

What to look for: Sores that change size and color, hurt, itch or bleed; sores that take longer than three weeks to heal; a translucent, pearly, or red nodule; a scaly yellowish patch resembling scar tissue; a black, brown, or blue lesion. More than a third of basal cell carcinomas occur on the nose.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Less common than basal cell, this type develops in much the same way but is more likely to spread if untreated. Squamous is responsible for more than 2,000 deaths annually.

Risk factors: Years of long-term sun exposure; fair skin; blue eyes.

What to look for: Red or white sores that take longer than three weeks to heal; a scaly or crusty patch resembling scar tissue; a small nodule that becomes a wart-like lump.

Malignant Melanoma: This is the least common type of skin cancer, diagnosed in about 40,000 Americans each year, but it causes the most fatalities. More than 7,000 people will die this year when untreated melanoma spreads to other parts of their bodies. Malignant melanoma occurs when pigment cells in the skin (called melanocytes) multiply out of control. Unlike the other two types, melanomas may appear anywhere on the body, even areas that don't see much sun.

Risk factors: Three or more blistering sunburns before age 20; exposure to intense ultraviolet light; fair skin; blue eyes; family history of melanoma; several large brown moles or more than 25 moles 1?16 inch across.

What to look for: Dermatologists recommend an ABCD self-check:

  • Asymmetry: half a mole doesn't match the other half.
  • Border irregularity: moles with ragged, notched, or blurred edges.
  • Color: several shades of color may be present, including shades of brown, red, and blue.
  • Diameter: moles greater than 6 millimeters (quarter inch) across or that continue to grow.