Updated: Jun 5, 2019

So did you notice a red patch on the side of my nose for a couple of weeks in May? It is my dermatologist's attempt to rid a spot she thinks is skin cancer (basal cell carcinoma) with a cream before doing a biopsy. This is my 7th bout with something that looks like skin cancer.

My first skin cancer took the form of a pimple that would never heal. The second time it was a spot on my cheek that would randomly bleed (no sore or mark) when I washed my face. Numbers four and five were little white bumps. Number 6 the dermatologist found on my neck during my yearly “skin check”. The red patch on my nose, number 7, started as a patch of flaky skin.

Growing up I had acne (before Accutane was invented). I went weekly to the dermatologist and received a sun room treatment to dry out my face. At home I used a sun lamp daily and during the summer spent time on the beach at our cottage getting sun burn after sun burn. I knew I was risking sun damage to my skin but chose NEVER to apply sun screen in attempt to have a clearer completion. That seemed to do the trick until a pimple that would never heal appeared when I was 33 that had to be surgically removed. After the second basal cell spot appeared, through my doctor, I began a skin care system to remove the top layers of the skin on my face…which often contain many precancerous cells. It had been at least 10 years since I had a skin cancer spot when I moved to Houston in 2005 so I thought I had rid myself of future occurrences. So now I am back on the skin care system and I just started taking a vitamin called Nicotinamide, a Vitamin B3 supplement. It was recommended by dermatologist as possible way to reduce basal cell skin cancer. Fingers are crossed.

You need to know the warning signs of skin cancer

The ABCDE rule is a guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features:

· A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.

· B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.

· C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.

· D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.

· E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Some melanomas don’t fit these rules. It’s important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.

Other warning signs are:

· A sore that doesn’t heal

· Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin

· Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of the mole

· Change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain

· Change in the surface of a mole – scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump

To avoid premature aging and damage that can lead to skin cancer, everyone should use sunscreen every day and practice sun-safe habits, such as seeking shade and wearing protective clothing, hats and UV-blocking sunglasses.

Additionally, certain skin cancers are caused by factors other than UV — such as genetics or environmental influences — and may occur on parts of the body rarely exposed to the sun. For example, people who have dark skin are more susceptible to acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM), an especially dangerous form of melanoma that typically appears on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. (The Jamaican singer and musician Bob Marley died of ALM when he was only 36.)

The importance of using SUN SCREEN with SPF

(from Consumerreport.org/cro/magazine/2015/05what-does-spf-stand-for

SPF (sun protection factor) is a measure of how long a sunscreen will protect you from ultraviolet (UV) rays. The chief cause of reddening and sunburn, UVB rays tend to damage the epidermis, skin’s outer layers, where the most common (and least dangerous) forms of skin cancer occur. Those cancers are linked to sun-accumulation over the years. Another type of skin cancer, melanoma, is thought to be caused by brief, intense exposures, such as a blistering sunburn.

Assuming you use it correctly, if you’d burn after 20 minutes in the sun, use SPF 30 sunscreen protect for about 10 hours.

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