5 Most Common Questions About Skin Cancer

Author: Dr. Bobby Buka

The sun is out, and so are we! It’s National Skin Cancer Awareness Month and summertime is just around the corner! Hibernation season is over, and many of us will be heading outdoors to enjoy the warm weather. The benefits of sunlight are plentiful, after a long winter, summer offers us a boost to our mental health and a healthy dose of Vitamin D. However, it’s important now more than ever to pay close attention to protecting our skin from the invisible threat of ultraviolet light.

Skin Cancer prevention should always be your number one priority, and while you should be using SPF protection year-round (and yes that means even when it’s cloudy), the risk of skin cancer significantly increases during the summer.

A sobering fact is that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives so unless you plan to stay indoors this summer, it’s crucial that you are able to recognize the warning signs and know when to get treatment.

Check out our top five common Q&A’s below that will help you better understand what to watch out for.

Can skin cancer look like a pimple?

It sure can – usually described as a non-healing sore, as in “I think I bumped my head or scratched a zit, but the darn thing just won’t heal.” The danger is that early stages of skin cancer may not look like much, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to ignore. If you have a spot or sore that persists for weeks or longer, it could be a sign of Basal Cell Carcinoma. This is the most common form of skin cancer and tends to form on the most sun-exposed parts of our skin such as the scalp, upper ears, face, and shoulders. Luckily, it’s the easiest to treat but neglecting the signs can lead to serious implications. So be sure to pay attention!

illustration of the different types of skin cancer

Can skin cancer itch?

Although itchy skin alone does not necessarily indicate skin cancer, it can be an early warning sign of something more serious. A cancerous mole or small blemish that is scaly and red can itch, tingle, be painful, or just “not feel like my normal skin.” Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are often likely to cause irritation. However, Melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, can form as painless mark or lesion and is less likely to cause any discomfort.

Can skin cancer be cured?

Absolutely and sometimes even with a topical cream. More severe forms will require an out-patient, very superficial, surgical procedure that can be done over a lunch hour. Basal Cell Carcinoma and Squamous Cell Carcinoma are the two most common forms of skin cancer and are easily treatable with the above methods, however, with Melanoma, early detection is critical as this form can spread through the blood stream to vital organs very quickly. There are three stages of diagnosis that will determine how the skin cancer is treated, the earlier you are diagnosed, the better!

Can skin cancer be inherited?

While you cannot inherit the cancer itself, the likelihood to develop certain forms of skin cancer can certainly be inherited. Melanoma, in particular, can be caused by inherited genetic mutations and is the most aggressive form of skin cancer. If you have a strong family history of this strain, it’s critical to go for a screening at least twice a year. If you spot it, you can stop it!

Can tanning beds cause skin cancer?

100%. The leading culprit for increased skin cancer rates we’ve seen over the last ten years is from tanning beds. Even just one session can double your risk of skin cancer. There’s no such thing as ‘just this once won’t hurt.’ Tanning beds are today what cigarettes were in the 50s…and likely headed for the same system of regulation.uvb light vs uva light skin cancer