Skin cancer: Reduce your risks

Image courtesy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Image courtesy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Baylor College of Medicine dermatologist Dr. Ida Orengo says there are two easy precautions you can take to help reduce your risk for developing skin cancer: slather on broad spectrum sunscreen and see a dermatologist regularly for early detection skin cancer screenings.

“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in humans,” she said. “It affects both lighter and darker skin individuals and can present in different ways depending on which type of skin cancer a person develops.”

Types of skin cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. This form of skin cancer can appear on sun exposed areas, and it is slow growing. In the last census, there were more than 1 million reported cases of basal cell carcinoma, Orengo said. This cancer does tend to affect lighter skin individuals, and it presents as a non-healing sore.

There are approximately 300,000 cases of squamous cell cancer reported yearly, making it the second most common form of skin cancer, Orengo said. This cancer grows as a firm nodule, can bleed easily and has a crust on it.

“When squamous cell grows larger than two centimeters it is more likely to metastasize,” she said. “When it metastasizes, it’s likely to spread to the lymph nodes first, then the brain, lungs and liver.”

The third type of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma comes from melanocytes, the cells that give skin color.

“Melanoma usually displays as dark growing moles that can be flat or bumpy,” Orengo said. “Most skin cancers do not have symptoms but if patients do complain of symptoms, the earliest symptom is itching.”

Early detection

Early detection screening is the best way to catch skin cancer before it metastasizes to other parts of the body.

“Skin cancer is a silent killer because it isn’t painful,” Orengo said. “I have patients who let cancer growths become too large before coming to see me, which is why we recommend regular screenings.”

She recommends that people have a screening once every year, especially if they are at high risk for skin cancer. These high risk people are those with fair skin, blonde or red hair, blue or green eyes, and with a family history of skin cancer.

To make an appointment for an early detection screening, call 713-798-6131.

-By Julia Parsons

One thought on “Skin cancer: Reduce your risks

  • Thanks for outlining the different types of skin cancer. My dad had a melanoma removed last year. I think that its crazy that something that looks just like a mole can be cancerous. I like when you explained that the “earliest symptom is itching.” I didn’t know that. I will be sure to pass the information on to my family!


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