There are two types of skin cancer, non-melanoma skin cancer, and melanoma. May is skin cancer awareness month, as an oncology-trained esthetician, this topic is very close to my heart. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It is well accepted that Ultra Violet (UV) rays from the sun are a major contributing factor to skin cancer. Aside from the sun other factors that can increase risk of skin cancer include tanning beds. Tanning beds increase the risk of basal cell carcinoma by 29%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and melanoma by 20% according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Not surprisingly, smoking and air pollution are contributing factors for skin cancer. Learn more about the effects of air pollution on the skin here. There are two types of skin cancer, non-melanoma and melanoma. Non-melanoma skin cancer includes potential pre-cancer/precancerous Actinic Keratosis (AK), Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Basal Cell Carcinoma.
Read about each and how to spot them below:
Actinic Keratosis (AK), are usually found in areas that get lots of sun exposure. These look like rough, scaly, crusty growths. They almost look like a wart. If left untreated, these can turn into the other types of non-melanoma skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma is most common in areas exposed to the sun and can look like a scaly red patch, an open sore that will not heal, elevated growth with a central depression, a wart or horn-like growth that may crust and bleed.
Basal Cell Carcinoma can look like an open sore, a pink growth, a shiny bump or nodule, or a scar. Any unusual change in appearance, color, or feel, sores that do not heal, as well as bumps, crusts, or growths should be seen by a doctor immediately.
Melanoma is the least common and most dangerous form of skin cancer because it quickly spread. For melanoma which is cancer of the melanocyte, the easiest way to do a self-exam is to follow the ABCDE method with moles or spots:
A: Asymmetrical (one side does not match the other)
B: Border (uneven or blurred border)
C: Color (mole or spot has more than one color)
D: Diameter ( bigger than the width of a pencil eraser)
E: Evolving (it grows or changes)
Does skin cancer affect people of color? Yes.
It is important to note that while non-Hispanic white people report higher skin cancer rates, it is essential to know that anyone can get skin cancer. An increased mortality rate associated with skin cancer in POC is due to a lack of awareness and diagnosis and systemic issues that make care less available.
Self check often, but also visit a dermatologist!
It is important to check your own body often, we have the power and responsibility to notice changes in our body. In addition, a yearly appointment with a dermatologist to get checked as well. The earlier you find something, the better, I cannot stress enough how important this is. If you are looking for a dermatologist who practices in the holistic space, a simple google search of "Integrative Dermatologist" or "Holistic Dermatologist" will generally bring up options in your area. You can also visit https://tcmdermatology.org/ to find a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner.
Emily Davis is the owner of Stratum Aesthetics and has been a licensed esthetician since 2007. She is a holistic esthetician specializing in cannabis skin care.