Beauty Myths DeBunked -AOL Health
Tag Archives: squamous cell carcinoma
Spring Break is just around the corner—sunshine, here we come! Just know that the incidence of melanoma, which has nearly doubled in the last decade, is increasing at a rate faster than any other cancer. While most people take several measures to decrease the chance of getting skin cancer, some of these measures are ineffective. The following are common misconceptions of how to “prep” your skin for Spring Break.
*A base tan will prevent me from getting a sunburn. There is no such thing as a “healthy tan.” Tanning is a response to skin injury by UV rays, meaning that any bit of tanning is a sign that your skin has been damaged. Steer clear of tanning beds. Although tanning beds emit primarily UVA rays, overexposure can cause sunburn, and their use enhances skin aging and the risk for skin cancer.
*I’ve been indoors since the Holiday break, so being under the sun for five days won’t kill me. Actually, it might. The number of sunburns you get are directly related to melanoma risk. One study found that a person with a history of three or more blistering sunburns is 2.5 to 6.3 times more likely to get melanoma. For this reason, people who experience intense, intermittent sun exposure are more prone to developing this deadly type of skin cancer.
*I spend a lot of time outdoors, so spending a few days at the beach won’t make a difference. Wrong. While sunburns increase your risk of getting melanoma, lifetime cumulative sun exposure directly correlates with your chances of getting nonmelanoma skin cancer, namely basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.
*I’m young, so I don’t have to worry about cancer because it affects older people. The sun causes at least 90 percent of all skin cancers. Although many develop skin cancers later on in life, most people receive 50 to 80 percent of their cumulative lifetime sun exposure before age 18. Start protecting yourself now; your skin will thank you later.
*I’ve heard tanning lotions are safe, so I’ll just slather that on to protect my skin while I’m at the beach. While it’s true that self-tanning lotions are skin dyes that are safe to use, skin-coloring agents do not protect the skin from UV ray injury. Therefore, you should apply sunblock even if you’re using self-tanning products.
*I don’t like the feel of sunblock; I’ll be fine if I just stay in the shade. UV rays are reflected off sand, concrete and snow, and these elements add to the total UV ray exposure. So sitting in the shade won’t fully protect you, and you could still get a sunburn. And if you really can’t stand the way sunblock feels, know that clothing is truly the best protection. Cover the skin with clothing first, and apply sunscreen to unprotected skin.
*It’s cloudy—I don’t need to apply sunblock. Although UV rays are less intense on overcast days, they’re still present. Since sun damage is cumulative, each dose of UV rays adds up and will gradually cause permanent skin damage.
Do your skin a favor by keeping these misconceptions in mind during Spring Break. If you end up getting a sunburn, take aspirin to help reduce inflammation and control pain, cover the burn with a cool, wet compress for 20 minutes four or five times a day and drink a lot of fluids. Stay away from butter or heavy ointments, since they can cause skin irritation, and stay completely out of the sun for at least one week, since sun-damaged skin is more susceptible to subsequent burns.
Here are some other tips to prevent getting a sunburn on Spring Break:
-Try your best to avoid sun exposure from 10 AM and 2 PM (11 AM to 3 PM daylight savings time), when UVB rays are most intense. Plan outdoor activities for the early morning or late afternoon.
-Keep your location in mind. If you’re vacationing somewhere with a high-altitude, there is less atmosphere to absorb UV rays, increasing the risk of sunburn. Additionally, UV rays are stronger near the equator, where the sun’s rays strike the earth most directly.
-Some medications (sulfonamides, tetracyclines, and birth control pills as well as over-the-counter products) and cosmetic ingredients (lime oil) can be photosensitizing. Be sure to check them out before using them while on vacation.
Originally written for SkinSight
1- Fitzpatrick, James E., and Joseph G. Morelli. Dermatology Secrets in Color. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier, 2007. Print.
2- Skin Cancer Statistics 2005. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov
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By Kira Mayo
You can’t get rid of that red, scaly patch on the back of your left hand. It’s been there for about six months. You’ve flaked off the scale several times, but it always seems to come back. It’s starting to itch and it’s getting bigger. What could it be?
One of the more serious diagnoses in this case would be squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). 250,000 new cases of SCC are diagnosed annually, making it the second most common type of skin cancer, after basal cell carcinoma. There are two main layers in the skin: the epidermis (top) and the dermis (bottom). SCC affects the cells of the epidermis. The infected outer cells then invade the dermis.
Sun exposure causes the overwhelming majority of SCC. This has been proven many times in multiple ways. Consider the following:
- the incidence of SCC is lower the farther you get from the equator; the incidence of SCC is 5x greater in New Orleans than Chicago
- these lesions are more common in lighter-skinned individuals
- they can be brought on in animal models by solar irradiation
- they can be prevented by the use of sunscreens
And that’s not even all the evidence suggesting that sun exposure increases your chance of getting SCC!
Other risk factors for SCC include age; fair skin, light hair, or light eyes; chemical exposure, such as exposure to arsenic or tar; radiation exposure; a history of sunburns; a personal or family history of skin cancers; a chronically suppressed immune system (SCC is common in organ transplant recipients); and areas of chronic injury, such as burn scars.
SCC usually appears on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, neck and back of the hand. The appearance of SCC varies greatly. It may begin as a red bump or patch with a scaly or crusted surface and may develop a bumpy surface. If you notice a non-healing lesion on any sun-exposed surface, you should have a dermatologist look at it.
Here is a link with pictures of what SCC may look like: http://www.skincancer.org/scc-what-to-look-for-images.html
Once you visit your doctor, you will probably need a biopsy to definitively diagnose SCC. During the biopsy, your doctor will remove and carefully inspect a piece of the affected skin.
The type of destruction caused by SCC depends on how soon you catch it, how far it has invaded, its location, your general health and other similar factors. SCC is locally invasive, which means that it will continue to grow larger over time. Lesions caught early and removed surgically generally have good outcomes. However, the larger a lesion becomes, the more it will destroy surrounding tissues. Lesions that have had more time to destroy surrounding tissue may be removed, but they may be harder to remove completely and they may leave more of a noticeable scar. One of the worst case scenarios is a SCC that has spread to other organs in your body, such as the esophagus, lung and cervix. It is important, however, to note that only 2% of SCC’s metastasize.
Finally, new tumors may develop, so if you have been diagnosed with SCC in the past, you should have your dermatologist examine your skin on a regular basis and be extra diligent about regularly examining your own skin.
The bottom line? Call your physician if you notice any change in color, size, texture or appearance of a skin lesion. Especially if the lesion is on a sun-exposed area.
Here are some ways to reduce your chances of getting SCC:
- Protect your skin from the sun by wearing sunblock, long-sleeves, and wide-brimmed hats.
- Try to avoid the midday sun (between 10am-4pm) as much as possible.
- Avoid sunburning.
- Conduct self skin checks at regular intervals.
- Visit your dermatologist annually for a professional skin exam.
Originally written for DermHub, http://www.dermhub.com
By Kira Mayo
If you’ve been diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, there are many ways to manage this cancer, each with associated pros and cons. Some of the most popular treatment options are discussed below. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting any treatment.
Topical chemotherapy. This is used most often for superficial cancers. These topical agents can produce significant inflammation and scarring, so be sure to discuss potential complications with your doctor.
5-Flurouracil cream. This anti-metabolite stops cell division by damaging the DNA that tells the cancerous cell to keep replicating. People typically apply this cream once or twice a day for several weeks.
Imiquimod cream. This topical treats superficial basal cell carcinoma and actinic keratoses (lesions that have the potential to become squamous cell carcinoma). The way it works is not clearly understood. Treatment frequency and length varies, so talk with your doctor to come up with an individualized treatment plan.
Cryosurgery. Cancerous cells are frozen with liquid nitrogen that gets as cold as -58 degrees Fahrenheit. The frozen cancer cells are destroyed and slough off, allowing the underlying normal skin to heal. This is a highly effective way to treat actinic keratoses and small squamous cell carcinomas. When treating larger squamous cell carcinomas, it is used more aggressively and scarring can result. In addition, the cure rate for larger skin cancers is not very high. Therefore, in the treatment of larger cancers, it may be used to relieve pain or reduce growth only, without actually curing the patient.
Curettage and electrodessication. This is often used to treat small squamous cell carcinomas. It involves scraping the tumor with a curette, a small spoon-like instrument, and then using an electric needle to gently burn the remaining cancer cells and a margin of normal-looking tissue. This process if often repeated a few times, and the wound generally heals without stitches. This method is best for treating a new small lesion, and does not work well if the lesion is recurrent or near a scar.
Photodynamic therapy. This treatment is primarily used to treat actinic keratoses, and consists of two phases. During the first phase, a photosensitizing chemical is applied to the tumor and stays on for several hours. The photosensitizing chemical increases the skin’s reaction to light. During the second phase, an intense beam of light vaporizes the now-photosensitive tumor. Since the laser does not destroy cancer cells found deeper in the skin, follow-ups with a dermatologist are important.
Surgical excision. This can be used to treat primary and recurrent squamous cell carcinomas, and consists of surgically removing the tumor and a margin of cancer-free skin around the tumor to removal of the entire tumor. After surgery, the excised tissue is examined under a microscope to ensure that the complete lesion was excised.
Mohs surgery. This is often considered the most effective treatment for squamous cell carcinomas, especially ones that are larger than 2cm, have recurred, or are located on the face, mucous membranes or genital area. During the procedure, your doctor removes the tumor layer by layer, examining each layer under the microscope until no abnormal cells remain. This allows the tumor to be removed without excising an excessive amount of healthy skin.
While treatment of squamous cell carcinoma has a high cure rate when it is detected early, this cancer can recur. Those who have had one or more skin cancer lesions are at an increased risk of developing another. As a skin cancer patient, you should perform regular self-examinations of your skin and keep your follow-up appointments with your dermatologist. Early detection and removal offer the best chance for a cure.
Originally written for DermHub.com
References: Dr. Jeffrey Ellis, belaray.com
Photos via bing.com and flickr.com