The Star-News


A chance of skin cancer on the horizon

Thu, Jul 08 2010 05:25 PM Posted By: Special To The Star-news

Did you know that you still need to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) waves, the harmful components of sunlight that are associated with skin cancer, even on a cloudy day? It's true. Spending time in any sunlight, no matter how intense, increases your risk of developing certain types of skin cancer.

Other risk factors include living in an area that is extremely sunny year-round, having light, freckled skin that burns easily, and old age. The American Cancer Society reports that skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer, and the number of people diagnosed with this cancer has been on the rise for years.

There are two general types of skin cancer a person can be affected with, melanoma and non-melanoma, with melanoma being the least common, yet most harmful. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma accounts for only about 3% of skin cancer cases; however, it causes over 75% of total skin cancer deaths. Non-melanoma skin cancers are far less detrimental in comparison and can be easily cured with early detection.

Skin cancers can be detected by simply noticing changes to the surface of the skin such as a new growth or an unfamiliar sore that either does not heal or worsens over time. If diagnosed with a skin tumor, patients have several options for treatment.

Director of Operations at UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay, Teresa Langley, explains, "The common misconception about skin cancer is that it can only be treated through surgery, however, this is not always the case.

There are various treatment options available to patients, such as radiation therapy, simple excision, cryosurgery or chemotherapy. Our facility specializes in providing radiation therapy, a non-invasive, painless procedure using the newest equipment and technology available."

"There are several advantages to using radiation therapy to combat cancer of the skin," remarks Langley. "Radiation therapy is a painless treatment option that can be done entirely in an outpatient setting, requiring no hospital stay. There are minimal side effects and the treatment usually results in exceptional cosmetic outcomes in a relatively short timeframe. Radiation therapy is an ideal alternative for patients who are not interested in surgery."

Although skin cancer can be highly curable, it is also an easily preventable disease, unlike many other cancers. The majority of non-melanoma skin cancers develop from excessive exposure to the sun over time; therefore, a conscious effort to protect your skin while outdoors is imperative in order to reduce the odds for developing skin cancer.

Additionally, it also is important to avoid sun exposure during peak daylight hours when UV rays reach their highest levels. Sunburns can be prevented by applying sunscreen every 30 minutes and wearing clothing and hats to shield your skin from the sun's harmful rays. Also, it is important to limit the use of or avoid tanning beds and sunlamps since they emit some of the same damaging UV waves as the sun.

In addition to these preventative measures, it is critical to inspect your skin monthly to note any changes in moles, freckles, and other distinctive marks, and have your doctor perform yearly skin inspections. If you note a change in your skin and suspect skin cancer, contact your physician immediately.

This article was brought to you by UC San Diego Radiation Oncology South Bay. For more information about the facility, call (619) 502-7730 or visit http:// radonc.ucsd.edu/southbay.


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