A dermatologist is a doctor that specializes in treating skin, hair, nail, and mucous membrane disorders. This medical specialty can also provide support for cosmetic issues, helping patients to revitalize the appearance of their skin, hair, and nails.
Actinic Keratosis is not cancer but is a precancerous lesion of the outer layer of skin. It is usually caused by long-term exposure to sunlight and is not life threatening as long as it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages. It does have the potential to progress into squamous (pr:squay’muss) cell cancer, a serious type of skin cancer if not treated.
The most common form of skin cancer is called Basal Cell Carcinoma and occurs mainly on sun-exposed areas of the body. This type rarely spreads (metastasizes) but can cause damage to surrounding tissue. Most of these cancers are caused by chronic sun exposure, especially in people with fair skin, light hair and blue, green or gray eyes. If you suspect something unusual, see your dermatologist.
Squamous cell carcinoma is a major type of cancer and occurs mostly on sun-exposed areas. This type If untreated may penetrate and destroy underlying tissue. In a small percentage of cases, it can spread to distant organs and may be fatal. It occurs mostly in people with fair skin, light hair and blue, green or gray eyes. However, it may occur in dark-skinned individuals as well.
Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer of melanocytes, the cells that produce dark, protective pigment called melanin. It is manifested as a dark brown, black or multi-colored growth with irregular borders that can become crusted and bleed. As with other skin cancers, an increased risk of developing this disease is seen in people who have fair skin, light hair and eye color, but may affect anyone at any age and can occur anywhere on the body. Melanoma may spread to other organs, so it is essential to treat this skin cancer early.
Don’t become a statistic. See your dermatologist at least yearly for a body check. To protect yourself, avoid the sun, especially between the hours of 10AM to 4PM. Additionally, wear sunglasses, broad brimmed hats and protective tightly woven clothing. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, rated SPF (sun protective factor) 30 or higher on all exposed skin, including the lips, even on cloudy days. Avoid tanning beds and artificial tanning devices.
Information provided by Dr. Karl Vance, a Minneapolis dermatologist.