Despite promising new treatments for the most common cancer in American – skin cancer – physicians say prevention remains the best medicine. With an estimated one in five Americans developing skin cancer in their lifetime, doctors want to shine a brighter light on the importance of skin cancer screenings, even as we see less of the sun in the upcoming seasons.
“The best time of year for skin cancer screenings is anytime,” said Dr. Kathleen Hemauer, an Oncology/Hematology Specialist at the ThedaCare Regional Cancer Care. “This is especially true for people at the greatest risk for the disease.”
According to Dr. Hemauer, those at greatest risk for developing skin cancer include:
- Age 50+
- Fair skin
- History of sunburns or multiple moles
- Personal history of skin cancer
- Family history of skin cancer
Dr. Hemauer suggests all people regularly do skin exams at home, especially when the skin is covered up in the fall and winter months. She said an easy way to remember what to watch is by following the “ABCDE Rule”. If
- Borders that are uneven
- Colors that come in multiple shades
- Diameter greater than ¼ inch (size of a pencil eraser)
- Evolving (or changing over time) marks on the skin
Keep in mind, skin cancer can occur anywhere on the skin, even under finger and toe nails. Most commonly it occurs in places that are exposed to the most sun, including the scalp, face, arms, and legs.
“If you spot any skin concerns, talk with your primary care provider or dermatologist and consider a skin cancer screening,” Dr. Hemauer said. “Be sure to take note of any spots on your skin you may be concerned about ahead of time.”
Full skin exams are typically performed by a dermatologist – head to toe. Skin cancer screenings typically take about 15 minutes, if nothing suspicious is found.
“Skin cancer is common, and when it’s caught early, is can be easier to treat,” Dr. Hemauer said.
Most skin cancer patients have tailored treatments, which includes surgery to remove the affected area, radiation, chemotherapy, and in most recent years, targeted therapy and immunotherapy.
“There is ongoing research in the use of immunotherapy and targeted treatments for skin cancer, which is very exciting in improving outcomes for our patients, especially those in the advanced stages of the disease,” she said. “Immunotherapy better detects and destroys cancer cells using a person’s own immune system. The treatment is helping patients with both melanomas (the most serious of skin cancers) and nonmelanomas such as advanced squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers.
Here are other skin cancer prevention measures Dr. Hemauer recommends:
- Avoid the sun during peak hours – even in the winter.
- Cover as much skin as possible to avoid sunburns.
- Use sun protection with SPF 15 or greater.
- Apply sunscreen every two hours to protect against UVA and UVB radiation.
- Avoid indoor tanning.
Dr. Hemauer also noted that if you see something on your skin, do your best not to panic. Most skin lesions and moles are not cancerous, and it’s always best to get checked out to be sure.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health and well-being of the communities it serves in Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including eight hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their unique, best lives. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.