Skin cancer affects one in five people over a lifetime in the United States. The most common form is basal cell carcinoma followed by squamous cell carcinoma. While melanoma accounts for fewer than 5 percent of skin cancers, it causes more than 75 percent of deaths; it is also the most common form of skin cancer for those in their twenties.
The risk of developing skin cancer more than doubles for those who suffered just one blistering sunburn as a child. In addition to the sun, delaying diagnosis and treatment are major hazards.
In a live Web chat on Wednesday, dermatologist Donna Corvette of the Dermatology Center of Williamsburg (dermatologycenterofwilliamsburg.com) and LaDonna Finch, director of the Inflammatory Skin Disease Institute (
) in Newport News, answered readers' questions. Here are some excerpts from the chat:
Is it ever OK to tan?
No tan is a good tan. There is no such thing as a healthy tan. All tans can create future skin cancers. … Indoor tanning is extremely dangerous.
How can you protect your skin?
: Wear a sunblock on a daily basis. Choose a broad spectrum block that's 25 SPF or higher. (Applying SPF 15 twice does not equal SPF 30.) ... Wear it every day, rain or shine. Apply at least a golf-ball size amount and apply often, every two hours. Look for the ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Be sure to cover your ears too. … Avoid the high intense sun hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
: How can I recognize skin cancer?
: It can look like a mole which changes color; a bump which doesn't heal or go away; a black spot or a pink, scaly spot. There are ABCDs — asymmetry, borders, color and diameter — that can be helpful. … Don't' watch and wait. I ask my patients not to wait more than one month. Get it diagnosed by a board-certified dermatologist. When a spot is suspicious, we take a biopsy of the lesion.
: What if the cancer's not removed in the early stages?
: Basal cell cancers rarely metastasize, but left to grow they can leave deforming scars. Squamous cell cancers may spread to other areas of the body and kill patients. They usually show up as nonhealing sores or crusty, scaly spots.
: What about melanoma?
: If detected early, the cure rate for melanoma is 95 percent. The most preventable cause is excessive sun and sunburn. Melanomas can occur anywhere in the body, even under a toenail. It may suddenly appear, without warning or pain. A melanoma can kill you in six months…. We recommend a yearly skin evaluation.