If there’s one thing the nation would know about Arizona, besides it being the Grand Canyon state, it would be the number of sunny days we get around here. Sunshine is great for cookouts or enjoying a dip in the pool, but too much sun exposure can be harmful to our skin.
Two of the most common types of skin cancer are melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is cancer that starts in the melanocyte and non-melanoma is found in the basal cells and squamous cells in the epidermis.
Mohave County has one of the highest rates for skin cancer per capita.
“All people with a history of skin cancer should be screened yearly,” Chad Taylor, an osteopathic doctor for Mohave Skin and Cancer, said.
There are multiple factors to why people are diagnosed with skin cancer. It can be a family history of skin cancer, it can be hereditary, sun exposure, tanning beds and it can be found in the immune system.
The early signs of cancer according to Taylor can be itching of the skin, skin discoloration, or skin growth. Others can be changes of the size or shape of a mole or a sore that doesn’t heal.
When patients are screened for any signs of skin cancer, Taylor uses an examination process called dermoscopy.
“People are screened based on the family history of skin cancer, from the scalp to the toes,” he said.
During the dermoscopy examination, high power resolution and LED lighting is used to visualize the skin and it allows medical professionals to detect early forms of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
“Although cancer can appear anywhere,” Taylor said.
Among the men and women, men are more common to have skin cancer. Malignant cancer is more common to be found in men on their backs and women on the thighs. Basal cell cancer is commonly found on the face and scalp.
The rate of cancer among everyone is the same but the types can differ, Taylor said.
All cancers are higher in Caucasians. Among Asians and African Americans, carcinoma is common in the hands and feet.
In 2017, the American Cancer Society, found an estimated number of 57,170 new cases of melanoma skin cancer in males and 34,940 in females. In Arizona there was an estimated number of 2,050 new cases.
Sunny safety suggestions
Since summer is here, and it’s going to be here for quite a while, some tips to stay safe while out in the sun, according to Taylor would be, a good sunscreen with 30 to 50 SPF and reapplying it every hour.
Wearing protective outerwear such as hats, long sleeves, and any other sun protectant clothing. For every 10 minutes spent out in the sun, be sure to take a 15-minute break out of the sun under the shade.
People like getting tanned for the summer but using the tanning beds can be harmful. Taylor suggests to limit the use of tanning beds.
Self-assessments are also another way to help spot any possible signs of skin cancer, such as checking for skin lesions or skin changes.