The Herald interviewed Dr. Amy Cheng, dermatoloist at our Smokey Point Medical Center, about what happens at a skin check and how to protect yourself from skin cancer. Read the article, "What to Expect: Skin doctor checks closely for danger," which ran in the Saturday Health & Wellness section.
"Washingtonians have a higher rate of melanoma than many other places in the country,” said Dr. Cheng.“The best thing you can do for skin is use sunscreen, wear hats and stay in the shade.”
Three major types of skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma:The most common type of skin cancer. (It's what of the actor Hugh Jackman had on his nose treated in the past few years.) It appears as a dry or pimple-like spot that doesn't go away and can itch, bleed or have poor healing. These usually are not life-threatening.
Squamous cell carcinoma: More common then melanoma skin cancers but less common then basal cell carcinoma. Intermediate in terms of aggressiveness. Can spread internally if neglected and not treated early enough.
Melanoma: Deadliest type of skin cancer. Usually a dark or changing growth. Sometimes can occur in sun-protected areas. In ethnic skin (African Americans, Hispanics) can grow in fingers and toes. In fair-skinned individuals these can be pink or light brown instead of black in appearance. Any new changing moles should be checked out,Early detection is key in melanoma. The risk of a melanoma spreading internally is higher when it has invaded just 1 millimeter deep into the skin.
Ways to protect yourself
- Avoid exposure from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. when UV radiation is the highest.
- Wear a broad spectrum sunscreen.
- Wear hats, sun-protective clothing and find shade.
Note: If you protect yourself from the sun, take Vitamin D, or make sure your diet is rich in Vitamin D.