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What You Need to Know about Skin Cancer


We are at the peak of the summer season, and it is more important than ever to keep your skin protected from the harsh summer sun. Recently, we went to Kaiser Permanente to speak with Dr. Hege Sarpa to find out everything that your family needs to know about skin cancer.

Dr. Hege Sarpa started by explaining the three major types of skin cancer:

The most common form of skin cancer is a basal cell carcinoma. The word carcinoma means that its a malignancy. Basal cell carcinoma is by far the most common and is 100% related to sun exposure. It is more common in fair skin patients, and people with chronic sun damage.

The second most common is squamous cell carcinoma. This form can be a little tricky, especially in Caucasian males greater than 65 years of age in the head/neck area. Sometimes this can spread to other internal sites. There are other forms of squamous cells on the arms and legs that usually doesn’t behave quite as aggressively.

The third most common type is melanoma. It can happen in all age groups. It can present with many different colors. The most common is a multi-colored brown/black lesion. often they are flat lesions, but they can also be raised. They can also present in different shades of pink and colors. Melanoma can be very unpredictable. If it is superficial an excision is usually sufficient, but if it has some sort of invasion into the skin it has the potential to spread elsewhere, including internal organs – then patients can face a much more difficult scenario.

Skin Cancer Warning Signs
Change in color, shape and size can be associated with developing a skin cancer. In addition, lesions that bleed or grow rapidly need to be evaluated by a doctor promptly.

Treatment Options for Skin Cancer
There are many different types of treatments, and Dr. Hege Sarpa advised that it all depends on the type of skin cancer and the level of invasion. The treatments can vary from using a cream, cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen, surgery or radiation.

How young should parents be looking for skin cancer?
Dr. Hege Sarpa shared with us that skin cancer in children is quite rare, although there have been some instances of melanoma in small kids. There are certain spots you’ll want to look a little more: under the feet, and monitor the scalp area. What they are looking for is irregularly shaped lesions, larger lesions, multi-colored lesions, and if there is a strong family history of skin cancer. If you notice something on your child, the first step would be to advise your pediatrician and they will asses whether there is a need for a dermatological evaluation.

Ways to Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer
The #1 recommendation that Dr. Hege Sarpa has to protect yourself from skin cancer is clothing. “Clothing and covering up is far more superior to any other type of sunscreen available,” said Dr. Hege Sarpa. She continued to share that sunscreen needs to be applied every couple of hours, and she often worries that some people might have a false sense of protection by applying in the morning, and then not reapplying throughout the day while exposed to the sun.

The doctors at Kaiser Permanente are the best in the industry and have a strong focus on preventative care. Their priority is to help keep their patients healthy and thriving. Learn more about Kaiser Permanente online.

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