Non-melanoma skin cancer cases are on the rise

The number of people being diagnosed with other skin cancers is on the rise. (Source: WECT)

WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, N.C. (WECT) – Most people think of melanoma when they hear the words “skin cancer.”

While melanoma is the type of skin cancer most prone to spread to other organs in your body and kills more people than any other form of skin cancer, it is not the only type. The number of people being diagnosed with other skin cancers is on the rise.

Paula Jackson loves being in the sun and playing tennis with friends every Wednesday morning. Because of her fair skin, she is very aware of the damage the sun could cause and takes precautions with an ample amount of sun screen every day before leaving home.

Recently, she got a scare when she noticed something unusual on her arm.

“It had, almost like a scab, and it had a white ring around it, and I did not like the looks of it,” Jackson said.

Jackson wasted no time in contacting her dermatologist, Doctor Rosalyn George, who removed the tissue and determined the scaly patch was non-cancerous.

According to a study from Brown University, about 3.3 million Americans are treated for basal and squamous cell skin cancers each year. Not as dangerous as melanoma, but a condition that should not be ignored.

“Typically, these are not life-threatening, not the ones that could spread in your body and possibly kill you, but they can be disfiguring,” George explained. “That’s the thing that really gets people, is that yes, you have this thing that is not going to be a problem from a life span, but there are people who get them on their nose, their ears, their lips, their legs, where you wind up having a pretty big surgery.”

Basal cell carcinomas, which make up about 80 percent of non-melanoma cancers, usually are pink shinny bumps that may have broken blood vessels on the surface. Sometimes they can also look like a pale white scar.

Squamous cell carcinomas often start as pre-cancerous, rough, scaly spots that can turn into red or pink cancerous bumps.

Unfortunately, non-melanoma skin cancers cases are rapidly rising. It could be because more people are living longer and have more exposure to sunlight in their lifetime. But another reason could be the depleting ozone layers, which helps block damaging ultraviolent rays that lead to skin cancer.

A broad-spectrum sunscreen should be your new best friend, with an SPF of 30 or higher and apply it every two hours, limit your outdoor exposure during prime time, wear protective clothing, like a hat or long-sleeved shirts. And finally, see a dermatologist at least annually.

“Coming in, and having a skin check once a year and, of course, trying to protect yourself from the sun, we know that makes a difference,” George said.

George reminds people that using a tanning bed is still very dangerous. More than 419,000 diagnosed cases of skin cancer in the country each year are linked to indoor tanning.

Jackson is still enjoying her regular Wednesday morning tennis outings and still taking precautions just in case more spots appear and the next time, the news may not be as good.

Copyright 2016 WECT. All rights reserved.  

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