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franklin county times

Skin cancer screening important in South

By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
June 16, 2001
About 500 people were screened for skin cancer Friday at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center.
Plastic surgeons Mark Elliott and Lee Thornton, and dermatologist Neill Porter, conducted the screenings.
People checked were able to have full-body screenings or ask doctors to look at a specific area free of charge. Skin cancer literature was also provided.
Types of skin cancer
There are three types of skin cancer. The most common is basal cell carcinoma followed by Squamous cell carcinoma and the deadliest form, malignant melanoma.
The American Academy of Dermatology estimates 1.3 million cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. More than 7,000 people lose their lives to melanoma annually because as it advances, it can spread to other parts of the body.
Due to outdoor occupations in the region and long periods of warm weather recreation, skin cancer is much more prevalent in the South.
Having dark skin is not a guarantee against skin cancer, however. Though more common in Caucasians, melanoma in particular does not respect skin pigmentation.
Doctors recommend people familiarize themselves with their skin and patterns of moles and freckles and that they check themselves periodically using a full length mirror and a hand mirror in a brightly-lit room.
The ABCD test is a reference used in identifying possible melanoma.
A is for asymmetry One half of a mole does not match the other half in shape.
B is for border irregularity The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
C is for color Pigmentation is not uniform. Different shades of color are apparent.
D is for diameter The width is greater than six millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser). Any growth of a mole should be of concern.
Protection from the sun is also important to avoid skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 on all exposed skin, including the lips.
It is also recommended that sunscreen be reapplied frequently; that a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses are worn; that people sit in the shade as much as possible; that protective, tightly-woven clothing is worn; and that outdoor activity is planned to avoid the peak sunlight hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) as much as possible.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.
Skin cancers:
Basal cell carcinoma:
Usually appears as a small, fleshy bump or nodule most often on the head, neck and hands. Occasionally, it will appear on the trunk as red patches.
Most common in fair-skinned people with light eye color, who do not tan easily.
This form of cancer can take many months or years to grow to a diameter of one-half inch.
Untreated, the cancer will bleed, crust over, heal and repeat the cycle.
Rarely spreads to other parts of the body, but can extend below the skin to bone.
Squamous cell carcinoma:
May appear as a bump or red, scaly patch.
Most common in fair-skinned people.
Typically found on the rim of the ear, face, lips and mouth.
Can develop into large masses.
Can spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant melanoma:
Appears in mixed shades of tan, brown and black, but can also be red or white.
May appear suddenly in or near a mole.
Tends to spread, making treatment essential.
Warning signs include changes in the surface of a mole, the appearance of a new bump, spread of pig ment from the border into surrounding skin and change in sensation itching, tenderness or pain.
Heredity also plays a part in the chance of developing melanoma.