How prevalent is skin cancer?
In 2016, 5.4 million cases of skin cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. That number far surpasses the number of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined. It’s not even close. So, given these grave statistics, why aren’t more people rushing to their dermatologist to get a skin exam?
If skin cancer is so common, why do people downplay its significance?
One of the most straightforward reasons people tend to downplay the significance of skin cancer is that most cases of skin cancer are not deadly. For example, of the 5.4 million cases of skin cancer in the U.S., more than 4 million of those are basal cell carcinoma. Less than 1 percent of these basal cell carcinomas metastasize, or spread to other parts of the body. For this reason, they are rarely lethal.
Why is it important to get my skin checked?
By the same token, only 5 percent of the squamous cell carcinoma skin cancers metastasize or spread to other parts of the body. So, that means 95 percent of the time, they are not lethal. However, if left untreated, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can destroy large areas of skin, causing physical disfigurement that is permanent. So, when we consider there are 5.4 million skin cancers each year and 5 million of them are not very likely to spread or cause death, that’s pretty reassuring. So, what’s the big deal?
Malignant melanoma accounts for less than 1 percent of skin-cancer cases but the vast majority of skin-cancer deaths. One person dies of melanoma every 52 minutes. Melanomas are sometimes challenging to diagnose. Of all the skin cancers, malignant melanoma is the sneakiest skin cancer for a number of reasons.
Melanoma is a master of disguise.
Melanomas love a good disguise. Maybe you are thinking you can use color as a dependable guide to nail down a diagnosis of melanoma. Think again! Melanomas can be black, brown, tan, white, pink or red. Maybe you think the shape of a melanoma can help you detect one early. Think again! They can be round, oval, jagged or amorphous in shape. As far as elevation goes, melanomas can be flat, raised, shiny or rough. Given all these varied appearances, it makes sense to get a skin exam from a professional dermatology provider whose expertise can decide which lesions are suspicious enough to biopsy.
Melanomas grow in the strangest places.
Basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas tend to grow in sun-exposed areas like the head, neck, arms and hands. This makes sense. Because all skin cancers are triggered by the sun, they should all grow in sun-exposed areas, right? Think again. The most common place for a man to grow a melanoma is the back. For a woman, the most common melanoma site is the legs. Skin cancers are quiet and don’t complain much. Whether you are growing a basal cell, squamous cell or melanoma skin cancer, it is rare that you will feel anything associated with your skin cancer. At the early stages, there is usually no itch, no stinging, no burning, no bleeding, no fatigue, no weight loss. In short, you won’t realize anything is wrong with you at all.
What’s the move?
Because skin cancers have a million disguises, grow quietly and painlessly, and frequently grow in places you would never suspect, the only dependable way to protect yourself in 2018 is to call and schedule a full-body skin exam at Tru-Skin Dermatology as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you see or feel something is amiss. By that time, it may be too late!
Dr. Daniel J. Ladd Jr. is the medical director and founder of Tru-Skin Dermatology.