May is National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month. Melanoma may not be the most common type of skin cancer, but it is considered to be the most serious by the medical community due to its high probability of spreading and becoming fatal. The main risk factor for developing it is overexposure to the sun, so being mindful of time spent outdoors and always taking care to use a strong sunscreen are effective ways to reduce the risk of developing it. Those with moles are also more susceptible to this type of skin cancer, making self-monitoring crucial for early detection.
What Is It?
Cancerous growths develop when the DNA of skin cells experiences extreme damage. This is typically caused by intense exposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from the sun or tanning beds. The damage triggers maladaptive genetic mutations, causing the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. These often take place in moles but can affect other areas of the skin as well. In fact, when melanoma develops, it often takes the form of a mole, though the coloring can be very different.
Causes and Prevention
Genetics, as well as skin type, can cause a person to be more prone to developing this type of skin cancer. The following factors have been shown to increase your susceptibility:
- High mole and/or freckle density
- The presence of atypical moles, age/sun/liver spots or birthmarks
- Having pale or fair skin
- Having red, orange, or light-colored hair
- Getting sunburned fairly regularly
- Frequent exposure to the sun
- Family history of this or other skin cancers
Unfortunately, many of these factors are unavoidable and out of an individual’s control. However, regulating the amount of time you spend in the sun, as well as practicing proper skin care strategies when in the sun, are factors that a pre-disposed person can take extra care to control. Avoid tanning beds at all costs, wear clothes that prevent the penetration of the sun’s rays, opt for sunscreen with a minimum 4-star UVA protection rating, and regularly (and liberally) reapply it, especially after swimming.
Signs and Symptoms
The first signs and symptoms present as atypical moles or irregular marks on the surface of the skin. Dermatologists advise patients to use the ABCDE self-examination strategy in order to monitor their moles and be aware of any changes. Using this method, the most common signs and symptoms can be noticed early, making your overall prognosis better.
- Asymmetry- An easy way to detect asymmetry is to mentally draw a line down the middle of a mole. Do the two sides match? If not, this is a big red flag.
- Borders- Normal (benign) moles have smooth, even borders. A mole with notched or uneven borders is a cause for concern.
- Color- Most moles are an identical shade of brown. Having a variety of shades and/or colors is another big warning sign, especially if those colors include red, white, or blue.
- Diameter- Benign moles typically have a small diameter. The diameters of atypical lesions often exceed the size of a pencil tip eraser.
- Evolving- Common moles do not change much over time. When a mole begins to evolve in any way, contact a doctor.
There are four types of melanomas. The most common, ‘Superficial Spreading’, presents on the abdomen, back, or limbs. Cells grow slowly at first before spreading across the skin. ‘Nodulars‘ grow more quickly than others and tend to turn red. ‘Lentingo Malignas‘ are less common and typically affect older people. Starting as a type of stain or freckle, it grows slowly and is less dangerous than other types. The final, ‘Acral Lentiginous’, is the rarest type and usually appears on the palms, under the nails, or on the soles of the feet.
After noticing changes in the moles or skin, seek medical help immediately. Dermatologists like those at Universal Dermatology & Vein Care can use microscopic or photographic tools to examine the lesion (‘skin abnormality’). If the doctor suspects the presence of skin cancer after this examination, he/she may refer you to a cancer specialist in order to undergo a biopsy, which involves taking a sample of the lesion in order to test the cells in the laboratory. A biopsy will confirm or deny the presence of cancerous traits in your lesion.
For the most part, methods for treating skin cancer are similar to those that treat other types of cancer. However, unlike with many cancers that affect the body internally, skin cancer is easier to remove completely, as it is presented on the outside of the body. Removal surgery is the most common treatment. The procedure involves cutting out the lesion as well as the tissue surrounding it.
If the lesion is too large for this procedure- meaning it covers an extensive area of the skin- a skin graft may become necessary. Skin grafting is a surgical procedure by which normal, healthy skin is removed from one part of the body and is transferred to the affected area. In the event that it has spread to the lymph nodes, a biopsy may also be performed there. Chemotherapy, biological therapy (using drugs to strengthen the immune system), and photodynamic therapy (using drugs, light, and radiation) may also be used in treatment, though they are less common.
Although it is considered the most dangerous form of skin cancer, it can still be treated successfully. When recognized and treated early enough, it is almost always curable. However, neglecting to take care of your skin (especially if it is sensitive or relates to any of the risk factors listed above) and failing to monitor and report changes can allow the skin cancer to advance and spread to other parts of the body. Like other cancers, if melanoma spreads, it becomes much more difficult to treat. Preventative care and early action greatly improve your prognosis and, as such, are invaluable tools for beating this type of skin cancer.
If you have any questions about skin cancer prevention or detection, contact the experts at Universal Dermatology & Vein Care!Lear More
There are many skin conditions that cause red spots on skin. It can be easy to confuse conditions at first glance, so we would like to take a closer look. Here are 21 conditions which cause common red spots on skin and how to treat them.
1. Acne Bumps
Causes: Characterized by pimples, oily skin, scarring and hyperpigmentation, whiteheads and blackheads. Acne (also known as acne vulgaris) occurs when oil, dead skin cells, and hair follicles are clogged within the skin.
Treatments: Acne treatments can vary from one person to the next depending on the severity of the condition. However, treatments are usually a combination of OTC and prescribed topical medication and possible dietary changes (such as avoiding sugary and oily foods and consuming more water, fruits, and vegetables).
Causes: Rosacea is a common condition that causes redness of the skin. It is similar in symptoms and signs to other conditions like acne and eczema. Doctors will perform tests to rule out those other conditions, and pay special attention to the patient’s historical skin patterns.
Treatments: The patient will need to use a combination of skin care and a prescription medication to treat rosacea. One of our certified dermatologists will have to diagnose the condition and prescribe treatment.
3. Pityriasis Rosea
Causes: Pityriasis Rosea usually occurs in people between 10 and 35. Researchers suspect that is stems from a virus, and not by a bacteria, fungus, or allergic reaction.
Treatments: Treatments include using skin lotions and lubricants to soothe the itch. In severe cases, a dermatologist may prescribe corticosteroids.
4. Tinea Versicolor
Causes: Tinea Versicolor is a fungal infection caused by a type of yeast that lives in the skin. Oily skin, excessive sweating, having a weak immune system and living in hot climates can all result in this condition.
Treatments: Simply observing the rash or using an ultraviolet light test can diagnose the condition. A combination of topical lotions, creams, shampoos, as well as pilled-medication, can be used to treat this condition.
5. Hair follicle infections (Folliculitis)
Causes: Folliculitis can appear on any part of the skin having hair and occurs whenever hair follicles are inflamed because of yeast, other fungi or bacteria. Shaving, wearing clothing that irritates the skin, sweating, oils, and makeup can all result in the condition. Commonly affected areas include legs, arms, buttocks, back and the beard area of the face.
Treatments: Mild forms of the condition can heal on its’ own over a two-week period during which it can be soothed with a warm compress. However, more severe forms of Folliculitis can be treated with medicated shampoos and/or prescribed antibiotics.
Causes: Petechiae can appear on account of brown, purple or red spots on the legs, arms, stomach, buttocks or on the inside of eyelids and the mouth. This happens when capillaries (tiny blood vessels) break and the blood leaks into the skin. Infections of various kinds and reactions to medication are two common causes of Petechiae.
Treatments: Depending on the nature of the condition, antibiotics, corticosteroids, immune suppressants and even chemotherapy in the instance where cancers like Lymphoma are among the causes.
Causes: Immune system over-activity causes Psoriasis. This condition includes inflammation, flaking, and thick silvery/white or red patches of the skin.
Treatments: Treatment options include a combination of topical steroids (creams), light therapy, oral medication, occlusion, and biologics.
Causes: Arguably one of the most common group of skin conditions, the most common form of eczema is atopic eczema and atopic dermatitis. Eczema seems to be hereditary and linked to developing various allergies, although one cause has not been pinpointed for the condition.
Treatments: Treatment options include a combination of topical treatments (like creams and gels) and dietary or other lifestyle changes.
Causes: Also known as Urticaria, Hives appear as pale red bumps or plaques that are swollen and often appear suddenly as an allergic reaction to an irritant. Chronic cases can result from conditions like cancer or hepatitis infection, as well as from the use of certain medications.
Treatments: Hives will be diagnosed with an allergy test, and a doctor will usually prescribe Antihistamines to help treat the symptoms. Wearing loose-fitting clothing and applying cool compress can all help.
Causes: Skin rashes are one of the many symptoms of Lupus. Lupus itself is not a direct skin disorder but an auto-immune condition that can damage vital organs in severe cases.
Treatments: Due to the many symptoms of Lupus, doctors need to use a combination of treatments. As far as the skin rash goes, however, the patient can use anti-inflammatory medications and topical creams to treat it.
11. Poison Ivy
Causes: An allergic reaction to direct contact with the Poison Ivy plant causes a poison ivy rash.
Treatments: Most cases of Poison Ivy can be treated at home using an over-the-counter antihistamine, hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, a cool wet compress pack, or frequent warm oatmeal baths. If you have symptoms like shortness of breath – or the rash stays beyond a few days – we advise that you visit an emergency room.
Causes: Shingles is a viral infection that occurs when the chickenpox virus appears for a second time in the body. It can appear on any part of the body as a painful rash that oozes and eventually crusts.
Treatments: Treatments for shingles include topical creams that relieve inflammation, as well as using baking soda and cornstarch to dry the sores. Burow’s solution and tap water are great options for cleaning crusted sore and reducing the oozing and inflammation.
Causes: Lymphoma is a lymphatic system cancer where white blood cells, known as lymphocytes, fight the disease in the body. Lymphoma can appear in different areas of the body, including the skin. In Lymphomas of the skin, a common symptom is a rash on the skin.
Treatments: Like most cancers, doctors can use chemotherapy and various oral medications to treat Lymphoma.
14. Cherry Angiomas
Causes: Cherry Angiomas are a skin growth resulting from red moles or spots that can appear in most areas of your body, usually in people aged 30 years and older. Small blood vessels contribute to the red coloration, but doctors do not know the exact cause. Doctors link this condition to chemical exposure, climate, certain kinds of medical conditions, and even pregnancy.
Treatments: Most cases of Cherry Angioma do not need to be treated (unless it is an indication of something more serious like cancer). However, it can be removed for cosmetic reasons through laser surgery, electrocauterization, and cryosurgery.
15. Basal-Cell Carcinoma
Causes: Basal-cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Causes include exposure to ultraviolet light, radiation therapy, long-term exposure to arsenic, and a weak immune system.
Treatments: If the cancer is small and localized, a doctor is able to remove it surgically with a simple excision or Mohs Surgery (a specialized microscopy procedure developed for skin cancer). In rarer cases, treatments may be cryotherapy (cold application), topical chemotherapy, laser surgery, or the prescription medication imiquimod.
16. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Causes: Squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common type of skin cancer. The cause is usually too much sun exposure. is usually the cause.
Treatments: Squamous cell carcinoma is also commonly removed with an excision or Mohs surgery. Other treatments include topical medications and various radiotherapies.
Causes: Genetics and DNA damage from too much exposure to the sun often causes Melanoma.
Treatments: Your doctor will use a biopsy to properly diagnose melanoma. A doctor will usually use surgical removal for this type of skin cancer as well. However, treatment may be more extensive depending on the number of cancerous moles present. Other treatments may include chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy.
18. Mosquito and Insect Bites
Causes: Some rashes result from insect bites including those from mosquitoes, spiders, ants, fleas, flies, and wasps. Following the insect bite is an allergic reaction in the form of a swollen, itchy bump.
Treatments: In most cases, rashes resulting from a mild allergic reaction to insect bites can go away on its’ own. However, you may need to take a trip to the emergency room or your general practitioner in the case of a more severe reaction. A doctor will prescribe a topical cream in these cases.
Causes: Cysts can occur in several parts of the body. Skin cysts (also known as sebaceous (epidermal) cysts) are sacs (bump or lump) under the skin which are full of sebum (fluid that is a greasy and cheese-like material). One cause of cysts is a plugged hair follicle duct. These cysts can also result from an infected injury or hormone stimulation.
Treatments: Treatments for cysts include cleaning the affected area with antibacterial soap, applying a warm washcloth for 20 to 30 minutes several times a day (up to four) to increase blood circulation and speed healing. Be sure to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist if there is no change within a week, or if the cysts begin to pus.
20. Port Wine Stains/Birthmarks
Causes: Port Wine Stains or birthmarks are present at birth and are usually red or brown in their appearance.
Treatments: A specialist may use a variety of laser treatments to remove Port Wine Stains. The type of laser treatment used is dependent on the type of Port Wine Stain and the anatomical location. A doctor may suggest a series of treatments in order to obtain the best results. It is best to treat Port Wine Stains early in life. This is because they get thicker and darker over time and can lead to bleeding as a person ages.
Causes: Warts, wherever they appear, are an infection resulting from the Human Papillomavirus family.
Treatments: Removing warts is not always necessary. In the case of treating warts, chemical peels, some laser therapies, freezing or topical creams are great. Your doctor will discuss treatment options that will help remove warts without creating scar tissue. Salicylic acid can help with home treatments.
If you are experiencing any of these red spots on your skin or have other skin concerns, contact us to schedule an appointment.Lear More
It is often said that an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. This old saying is one that remains true as far as it relates to the detection and treatment of Melanoma. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, one person dies of melanoma every 52 minutes.
Early detection can decrease your risk of being diagnosed with Melanoma. While prevention is always preferred, the good news is once the condition is detected early in those who have it, and is subsequently treated; the Melanoma has a higher chance of being cured.
Preventing Melanoma: What You Need to Know
Being that the leading known cause of Melanoma is coming in contact with the direct Ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, limiting one’s exposure is the best place to start with your efforts to prevent Melanoma. In this case, prevention can be as simple (and as difficult) as adjusting your daily habits. Here are Melanoma prevention tips you should practice in your everyday life:
- Staying out of the sun as much as possible, to avoid direct contact with UV rays.
- Avoid using tanning beds to decrease your direct contact with UV rays.
- Wear at least SPF 30 when exposed to the sun and reapply every 1-2 hours.
- Raising your level of self-awareness by regularly inspecting your own skin as best as possible for any apparent abnormalities. (Monthly self-examinations of moles.)
- Everyone should have their skin checked by a dermatologist at least once a year.
- Wear protective clothing, like hats, and seek shade during the midday peak sun hours.
While the tips above can help decrease your exposure to Melanoma, there are numerous causes that cannot always be prevented. For example, people with a family history of Melanoma have a higher likelihood of getting it. There is also an increased risk for people who possess a genetic predisposition to Melanoma, such as people who are fair-skinned, blonde and blue-eyed or people who have red hair.
Getting Involved: Raising awareness in May
May is all about Melanoma and skin cancer prevention, detection, treatment and of course, general awareness. There is much you can do to raise your own level or awareness about the disease, as well as the awareness of others. For example, you can:
- Encourage accountability at the level of the family, so that family members can encourage each other to wear sunscreen and limit the times spent in the sun
- Help build awareness through schools and the formal education systems. By equipping and encouraging teachers and administrators to pass on the necessary information about Melanoma to their students.
- Organize health fairs and/or events focused on sharing information about Melanoma with your community.