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Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but it can be prevented by avoiding over exposure to harmful ultraviolet light.

More than one million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S.  Skin cancer is primarily caused by over exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun as well as from exposure in tanning salons.  It maybe the result of a very bad sunburn years ago or from an accumulation of sun exposure over many years.  Dr. Stephen Stone, professor of dermatology at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, explains the types of skin cancer.

 “... there are only three that are relatively common.  Those are the basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and then melanoma.   … But the most dangerous, or at least the potentially most dangerous, is the melanoma.”

Dr. Stone says a melanoma is black, brown or a combination of various dark colors and usually has an irregular shape.  It should be removed as soon as possible.  He explains the risk factors for skin cancer.

“Basically the people who are born with fair skins.  The redhead who burns very easily, freckles very easily and never really does get a tan is at the highest risk.  And the dark skinned African is at the lowest risk and along that spectrum from the high risk to the low risk, your skin color is basically going to characterize your risk.”

Dr. Stone encourages people to do self examinations for changes in their skin and have skin screenings to detect skin cancer in its early stages.  If you or someone you know has a skin spot that is unusual or might even be cancer, you should see your primary care physician or dermatologist for an evaluation and possible treatment.

Ruth Slottag