Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than all other cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon combined, with one in five Americans developing skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. There are three types of skin cancer to be aware of — basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer with more than 4 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Basal cell carcinoma is characterized by abnormal, uncontrolled growths or lesions that arise in the skin’s basal cells, which line the deepest layer of the epidermis — the outermost layer of the skin. They often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps or scars and are usually caused by a combination of cumulative and intense, occasional sun exposure.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer with more than 1 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Squamous cell carcinoma is an uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells arising in the squamous cells, which compose most of the skin’s upper layers — the epidermis. They often look like scaly red patches, open sores, elevated growths with a central depression or warts; they may crust or bleed.
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer; one person dies of melanoma every 54 minutes, but it accounts for only 1 percent of skin cancer cases.
Some risk factors for skin cancer include a lighter natural skin color, family history of skin cancer, history of indoor tanning, history of sunburns — especially early in life — and skin that burns, freckles or reddens easily.
“If you have any of these risk factors, you should see a doctor for a skin cancer screening at least once a year,” Dr. Schuyler Metlis of Hannibal Regional Medical Group said. “Catching cancer early often allows for more treatment options, and if you have skin cancer, finding it early is the best way to make sure it can be treated with success.”
Through the month of June, Metlis will be offering free skin cancer screenings. Call 573-629-3500 to schedule an appointment.