Is the population finally paying attention?
Skin cancer deaths have slowed down and our doctors say it is because we are paying more attention to the possible cause.
The National Institutes of Health indicates that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Basil and squamous cell carcinomas are the most often diagnosed forms of skin cancer, and while melanoma is less common, it is the most deadly. Pre-cancers appear in the form of actinic or solar keratosis, which, if left untreated, may develop into squamous cell carcinomas.
The skin cancer expert
If I have any expertise concerning skin cancer, it comes from nearly 30 years of dealing with it. Although I have lost count, I have had at least four squamous cell, one basil cell and four melanomas ..
That's the bad news. The good news is I am still alive!
If you or a loved one has melanoma, then take heart. I survived it four times. So can you.
Medical science is still not totally sure what really causes skin cancer. Current theory is that it results from exposure to harmful UV radiation from the Sun. But if this is the case, why does it sometimes appear inside the mouth, the eyes or in one case I recently read about, on the soles of the feet.
Nearly 9000 people die every year from melanoma
According to Cancer.com, a website developed by Ortho Biotech Products, Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancers, accounted for about 68,720 cases of skin cancer in 2009 with about 8,650 melanoma deaths.
This much is certain, this is not an epidemic, but that knowledge is little comfort to people like me. Once melanoma cells reach the lymph nodes and have spread through the body, which happens if it is not enough soon enough, the usual cancer treatment regimen will begin. This includes chemotherapy, radiation and so on … followed by getting one's affairs in order.
The only cure for any form of skin cancer is to completely remove it before it spreads. In the case of solar keratosis, this type can be removed through cryosurgery; that is, freezing it off with liquid nitrogen. This is a temporary measure as, in my case, these skin lesions return in a few month's time. A second treatment involves a very aggressive skin cream that actually devours the lesions and surrounding skin. This treatment takes three to four weeks, and when used on the face, the patient looks like he tangled with a mentally deranged cat with sharp claws.
Basil cells can also be removed with cryosurgery if they are not too advanced. But most often they have to be cut out too.
Squamous cells and melanomas are removed surgically. My last surgery for melanoma removal involved three surgeries in order to get it all. I have a seven inch scar (shaped like the number 7) up into the hairline on the left side of my head.
OK, so let's assume that our health care profession is partly correct in saying that UV radiation from the sun is the cause of skin cancer; there are preventative steps we can take – just in case they are right.
- When outdoors cover all exposed areas. A white "T" shirt is useless in this regard. To protect yourself from UV radiation, wear dark colored, tightly woven, lightweight fabrics. UV light easily penetrates loosely woven, light colored garments.
- If skin is exposed, lather-up with a good quality sun blocker with a protective factor of at least UPF 30
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat that protects the head, ears and neck.
- Re-examine your diet. Some cancers can be preceded by following a diet rich in vitamins, minerals and above all-anti-oxidants. And avoid or neutralize acidic foods.