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What is Skin Cancer?

What is skin cancer?

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. Skin cancer occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. It is most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. There are two major types of skin cancer — keratinocyte cancers (basal and squamous cell skin cancers) and melanoma.

Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are the most common cancers of the skin. Both are found mainly on parts of the body exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck. These cancers are strongly related to the amount of sun exposure a person has had. Basal and squamous cell cancers are less likely than melanomas to spread to other parts of the body and become life threatening. However, if left untreated, they can grow larger and invade nearby tissues and organs, causing scarring, deformity, or even loss of function in some parts of the body.


Melanomas are cancers that develop from melanocytes, the cells that make the brown pigment that gives skin its color. Melanocytes can also form benign (non-cancerous) growths called moles. Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, but are more likely to start in certain locations. The chest and back are the most common sites in men. In women, the legs, neck, and face are other common places for melanoma to start. Most cases of melanoma are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.

Melanomas are not as common as basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but they can be far more serious. Like basal cell and squamous cell cancers, melanoma is almost always curable in its early stages. However, if left alone, melanoma is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body, where it can be very hard to treat.

It is possible to find skin cancer early because this cancer is visible. The first sign may be a slowly growing bump, a changing mole, or a dry and scaly rough patch. When treated before it spreads, most skin cancers can be cured. The key to finding skin cancer early is to know your skin. If you notice a spot or lump that is growing, bleeding, or changing, you should make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

Tips for Preventing Melanoma

Sun is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma.  There are several things that people can do to protect themselves from the sun. Finding melanoma early is absolutely crucial because when treated early melanoma is almost 100% curable.  To find melanoma early it is important that the skin is checked regularly for signs of skin cancer.

Tips for preventing melanoma

  • Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection formula (SPF) of at least 30 to all exposed skin. The sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses whenever possible.
  • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
  • Avoid tanning beds because this increases your risk of melanoma by 75%.
  • Use extra caution near sand, water, and snow because they reflect the damaging rays of the sun.
  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements.

Skin cancer can develop anywhere on the skin and is one of the few cancers that is visible to the naked eye. Dermatologists recommend you examine your body, front and back with arms raised in the mirror.  A hand mirror can be used to check arms, back of legs, neck, scalp, genitals and buttocks. The freckles, moles, and age spots that are seen should be noted during each exam looking for any changes in shape, size and color. Melanoma can appear under finger or toe nails. Beneath a nail, the most common early warning sign of melanoma is a brown- to black-colored nail streak. Another early warning sign is a spot that looks like a bruise. The bruise may fade and then come back. If a mole is noticed that is different from others, or that changes, itches or bleeds (even if it is small), an appointment with a dermatologist should be made. If you are in the Dallas, Sunnyvale or Rockwall area, book an appointment with our physician.

What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that can affect anyone. When found early and treated, the cure rate is nearly 100%. However, if allowed to grow, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body quickly. When melanoma spreads, it can be deadly.

Dermatologists believe that the number of deaths from melanoma would be much lower if people knew the warning signs of melanoma and examined their skin for signs of cancer. When checking moles on the skin, a person should look for the ABCDEs of melanoma.

What are the symptoms of melanoma?

A = Asymmetry: One half is unlike the other half

B = Border:  An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border

C = Color: Varies from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes red, white or blue

D = Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but can be smaller

E = Evolving: Mole or skin lesion looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color

Anyone can get melanoma but there are some people that are at higher risk. These include people with the following traits:

  • Fair skin (the risk is higher if the person has red or blond hair and blue or green eyes)
  • Sun-sensitive skin (rarely tans or burns easily)
  • 50-plus moles, large moles or unusual-looking moles
  • Has had bad sunburns or spent significant time tanning (sun, tanning beds, or sun lamps)
  • Family medical history (someone in the family has been diagnosed with melanoma)

Of the seven most common cancers in the US, melanoma is the only one whose incidence is increasing. Women aged 39 and under have a higher probability of developing melanoma than any other cancer except breast cancer. The majority of people diagnosed with melanoma are white men over age 50. Melanoma is now the most common cancer among people 25-29 years old.

It is believed that knowing the signs of melanoma and checking the skin frequently will increase the likelihood of catching melanoma before it spreads and becomes more dangerous. Contact us to set up your appointment for a skin cancer screening.

Who is At Risk for Melanoma?

Rise in melanoma in young adults

The risk of developing the most dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma, is now more than six times higher among young adults than it was 40 years ago, and women may be especially vulnerable. In fact, it is one of the most common cancers in people under 30. Before the age of 40, the risk is higher for women; after the age of 40 the risk is higher in men.

A new study shows the number of melanomas found among women under 40 years old increased by more than eightfold between the 1970s and 2000s. Cases of melanoma among men under 40 also increased by more than fourfold during the same time period. The findings are alarming, considering the rates of many other types of cancers are declining.

Who is at risk for melanoma?

Researchers say women may be hardest hit by melanoma because they are more likely to participate in activities that increase the risk of melanoma, such as using tanning beds or outside sun tanning.

Researchers say the best way to reduce the risk of melanoma and other types of skin cancer is to limit exposure to ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds or the sun. People with high levels of UV exposure from these sources are at greater risk for all types of skin cancer. The amount of UV exposure a person gets depends on the strength of the light, how long the skin is exposed, and whether the skin is covered with clothing or sunscreen.

Some of George Wooming, M.D.’s suggested ways to protect skin and reduce the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers include:

  • Stay out of the sun during peak hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing with a tight weave, including a hat with a brim to shade your ears and neck, a shirt with sleeves to cover arms, and pants.
  • Use a sunscreen every day with an SPF of at least 30. Choose a sunscreen that protects against both types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB.
  • Examine regularly for changes on the skin, such as new moles or changes to old moles, and talk to a dermatologist about having a skin exam done.


May Is Melanoma Awareness Month

George Wooming, M.D. offers tips to stay safe in the sun

As summer is rapidly approaching, it’s time to consider skin care and safety while having fun in the sun.  May is Melanoma awareness month, what better time to review the ABCDE’s of doing a self skin exam?

The ABCDE’s of a self skin exam

“A” is for asymmetry; do both halves look the same?  “B” is for border; is the mole irregular, scalloped, or poorly defined?  “C” stands for color; is the mole varied from one spot to another with various shades?  “D” is for diameter of the mole; is the width of the mole larger than a pencil eraser?  Lastly, “E” stands for evolving over time; is the mole growing, darkening, or otherwise changing?

Make an appointment with George Wooming, M.D. if you notice any of these characteristics in a mole or freckle, and for yearly skin cancer screenings.  In the meantime, find the shade when you can, and use a broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30 at least) with reapplications after 80 minutes or water exposure.


Best Sunscreens for Sensitive Skin

Dermatologists say there are many benefits of using sunscreen

Sunscreens have significantly developed over the years and have been proven to help reduce the risk of skin cancers. While sunscreen is on the skin it stops the UV rays before it penetrates the skin and inflicts damage. These rays are absorbed, scattered and reflected away from the skin. The use of sunscreen also acts as a moisturizer and can help regulate the natural state of the skin and reduces premature aging.

Best sunscreens for sensitive skin

1.    Neutrogena. Neutrogena has a Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion Broad Spectrum with an SPF level of 60+. This lotion has blend of natural sunscreens like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which is fragrance-free, oil-free and hypoallergenic; all great for sensitive skin.

2.    Vanicream. This sunscreen also contains zinc oxide and has an SPF level of 60+. Antioxidants are in this cream that helps with premature aging.

3.    Blue Lizard. This Australian sunscreen is highly recommended by dermatologists because it is fragrance-free and has a formula that uses zinc oxide and titanium oxide. This lotion requires a bit more effort to rub in but it sticks to the skin much more closely.

Summer is rapidly approaching. Consult with our physician to find out what sunscreen is the best for you. George Wooming, M.D. is here to serve the Dallas area and help them have healthy and beautiful skin.

Top 5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Skin Cancer

George Wooming, M.D.’s top 5 things you can do to prevent skin cancer

What types of skin cancers are there?

Skin cancer is mostly caused from too much sun exposure and the use of tanning beds. Dermatologists have determined three main types of skin cancer.

1.    Basal cell carcinoma. This particular skin cancer is the least dangerous and is the most common. This stems from the lowest layer of the skin and can appear translucent and sometimes become an ulcer.

2.    Squamous cell carcinoma. The level of cancer is a bit more dangerous and can become fatal if left untreated. Squamous stems from the middle layer of the skin and is less common. Aesthetically it looks like a red, crusted, or scaly bump on the skin. Many times it can be a tumor that grows quickly.

3.    Malignant melanoma. This is the most severe case of skin cancer, yet the most uncommon. If not treated, this cancer will spread and become fatal. Originates from the pigment-producing cells. It appears on the skin in various colors and in irregular patterns.

Top 5 things you can do to prevent skin cancer

The health of your skin should be taken serious since it is the largest organ and is exposed to many different elements. Dermatologists suggest these tips to help you take care of your skin.

1.    Stay out of tanning salons. The use of tanning beds has become a popular thing to do to get a nice glowing summer tan. However they are very dangerous. The lights in the beds are 2-5 times stronger than the natural sunlight. The UVA radiation in these lights cause sunburns, premature aging and skin cancer.

2.    Monitor your sun exposure. The sun’s UV rays are at its peak between 11AM and 4PM. The shorter your shadow is the harsher the sun is for your skin.

3.    Seek shade. If you must be outside look for shade to stand under. You may want to wear a hat will a large brim or bill to shade you face. Wearing long sleeves and pants will help protect your skin while exposed to the sun. Another thing to remember – just because its cloudy does not mean you are protected from the sun’s rays. About 80% of the rays can penetrate through the clouds.

4.    Use sunscreen. The more you apply sunscreen the better. Apply a thick coat about 15-30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours while in the sun.

5.    Beware of reflections. Be cautious of things that can reflect the sun’s rays. Things like water, sand, snow and concrete can reflect about 80% of the damaging rays.

With summer approaching, the people of Dallas will be heading out to Lake Ray Hubbard for some fun – remember to limit yourself to the sun and lather yourself with sunscreen. George Wooming, M.D is here to help you protect yourself.

Tips for Healthy Skin

George Wooming, M.D.’s tips for healthy skin

Having a skin care routine is highly recommended by dermatologists

Establishing a daily cleaning routine is good for your skin by removing the daily oils and dirt that build up on your face. Follow these steps to keep your face glowing.

1.     Nightly wash. Taking the time to wash your face every night will greatly increase your skin’s look and feel. For women, using a makeup remover will keep your pores clear while helping keeping bacteria from spreading onto your pillow. Use a gentle soap to clean your skin. You don’t want to use a harsh soap because that will completely remove all the oils from your skin – this will cause dry skin and could lead to problems. Once you have washed your face, dry it with a clean cloth. Be sure not to rub, pat dry instead. If possible air-drying is best.

2.     Use a toner. Using a toner is not for everyone, but some find it helpful. A toner will remove the extra oils the soap missed and will close your pores so dirt does not creep back into them.

3.     Apply a moisturizer. Using a light moisturizer at night will help repair your skin from the wear and tear of the day. A moisturizer will also help smooth out wrinkles.

Easy tips to help keep your skin clear

1.     Reduce your sugar intake. A high sugar diet is not good for anything. Your body has a hard time processing “false” sugars like the sugar in candy and sodas.

2.     Step into the sun. Your skin soaks up the vitamin D from the sun. Vitamin D helps prevent skin cancer and decrease depression. However too much sun is bad. Limit yourself to how much you are outside. About 15 minute of direct sunlight three times a week is good. Using a sunscreen will help prevent you from getting burned while still letting your skin soak up the vitamin D!

3.     Drink water. Drinking plenty of water helps keep you and your skin hydrated. By drinking lots of water you body can more easily replenish its self and helps produce healthy skin cells.

4.     Sweat. A lot of people tend to think that if you sweat you are clogging your pores up with dirt. This is not true – sweating helps push out the dirt. Once you have finished exercising splash some water on your face to wash away the dirt and wipe with a clean cloth.

5.     Change your pillowcase. Although you wash your face every night your face still produces oils overnight that stick to your pillow. Over the course of the day dirt like pet dander and dust will settle on your pillow. Change your pillowcase frequently to avoid a heavy dirt build up.

George Wooming, M.D. serves the Dallas area and is focused on educating people on the proper skin care techniques.

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