Idaho has the 6th highest rate of skin cancer in the United States, with 28.1 new cases per 100,000 people. That’s why it is important to know when to see a doctor and how to prevent it.
Cancer is when healthy cells in the body change and grow in an uncontrolled way. Many times, this change grows into a mass of changed cells, called a tumor. A tumor can be cancer, or it can be benign, which means that it is not cancer. Even if a tumor is benign, it can grow larger, but will not spread to other parts of the body. If a tumor has cancer, it can also be called malignant and can grow and spread to other parts of the body.
The skin is the largest organ of your body. The skin is made up of three layers, called the:
- Epidermis, which is the outer layer of your skin
- Dermis, which is the inner layer of your skin
- Hypodermis, which is the deep layer of fat, under your inner layer of skin
Skin cancer is when any of these cells grow out of control. Although skin cancer is the most common type of cancer that doctors diagnose, if it is found early, it is relatively easy to treat and leads to less than 1% of all cancer deaths.
When to See a Doctor
You should see your doctor if you notice an irritated or unnatural-looking skin growth or lesion. “You should also see a doctor if there is any change to an old skin growth or if there is a new one you are concerned about. In addition, you should seek care for a non-healing sore or lesion. Oftentimes, non-melanoma skin cancers present this way. Finally, when you think of skin cancers you often think of sun-exposed areas. However, it’s important to seek care for a concerning lesion even in an area not always exposed to the sun.” said Trent Hart, Physician Assistant, Saltzer Health.
Make sure to show your doctor any skin growths that concern you so that they can be observed and treated. If you have a family history of skin cancer, or any risk factors that are common to skin cancer, you should also think about having your doctor perform a yearly skin check as part of your routine physical. This is where your doctor will check your skin for new growths, and observe existing growths, such as moles or freckles, to make sure they are not changing.
You can prevent non-melanoma skin cancer by wearing clothing that protects you anytime you need to go out into the sun, such as hats, or clothes that have a built-in UV protection factor (UPF). You should wear a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 if you are outside for any extended period. You can also try to avoid going outside in the midday sun, which is when the sun is the harshest and causes the most damage. Even if you avoid the midday sun, it is important to always wear sunscreen when you go outside to help protect the skin. Sun damage builds up over time, so it is important to make sure that you are properly protected every time you go outside. Also, take care to regularly check your skin for any strange or unusual growths or changes. Making sure to regularly check your skin can help you catch skin cancer early. Generally, the earlier you begin skin cancer treatment, the easier it is to get into remission.