Non-melanoma skin cancers on the rise

By • Published: June 24th, 2010
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Beautiful summer days might leave you longing to soak up the sun. But new information on the prevalence of some skin cancers may give you second thoughts.

Researchers writing in the Archives of Dermatology say the number of Medicare patients treated for skin cancers other than melanoma grew by fourteen percent between 1992 and 2006. Two million people in the United States had one of these cancers in 2006. Another study in the same journal says non-melanoma skin cancers were more prevalent in the past three decades than all other types of cancer combined.

Squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas are the most common forms of skin cancers. Compared with melanoma, the most deadly form, they are typically very treatable. They don’t metastasize, or spread, as much as melanoma does, although they can grow beyond just the skin. Quick recognition… and quick treatment… are important.

So how do you recognize skin cancer… or spots that could become cancerous? Dermatologists recommend examining your skin regularly… about once a month. Be sure to note any moles, freckles or spots that change, or new ones that develop. Also look for areas that appear multicolored or raised, have irregular outlines, are bigger than a pencil eraser, or are scaly, itchy or not healing. Don’t forget to check your scalp and places normally hidden from the sun.

But you don’t have to avoid the great outdoors. To stay safe, wear sunscreen and protective clothing. It’s best to avoid exposure when the sun is most powerful, between ten a.m. and three p.m. For skin cancer prevention, you’re more likely to have it made in the shade.