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Skin Growths

Skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer in the United States, and cases of the most deadly form of cancer, melanoma, have doubled in the past 30 years.  As skin cancer affects a greater number of people every year, it is becoming increasingly important to better educate consumers about the serious risks of too much sun exposure.  In addition to learning to protect one's self from the dangers of the sun's ultraviolet light, the best chance of recovery should skin cancer develop is to catch it early, meaning people must be able to recognize early warning signs.

Surprising to many, men will account for more than half of the estimated 59,580 new cases of melanoma that will be diagnosed in 2005, and more men than women will die of the disease.  Melanoma is one of the most preventable forms of cancer if a person is vigilant about sun protection, including use of sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, shirts and seeking cover in the shade to avoid prolonged sun exposure.  Still, no matter how careful some people are, instances of skin cancer will arise because of various reasons, and the skin growths must be detected early.

Melanomas often start as skin growths that look like small moles.  If the skin growths are detected early and removed, the five-year survival rate can be as high as 98 percent, according to the American Cancer Society.  A doctor, as a result, should check any suspicious skin growths.  Once skin cancers migrate to the lymph nodes, they are able to move to other sites in the body, drastically affecting the survival rate. 

Skin cancer can occur anywhere, but most often it will be in spots that have been exposed to the sun the most "“ the face, forearms or upper body.  Out of an estimated one million cases of skin cancer every year in the U.S., approximately 8,000 to 9,000 are terminal and about 7,500 of those fatalities are from melanoma.  Even though most cases of skin cancer are non-melanoma types and will be generally treatable and rarely fatal, melanoma carries a disproportionately high mortality rate and the skin growths must be recognized early. 

Some cancerous skin growths can develop in a previously harmless mole, but half of melanomas form in a new spot on the skin.  The other two types of skin cancer "“ squamous cells and basal cells "“ have their own characteristics that must also be recognized.  Squamous cell carcinoma often appears as skin growths that are a persistent rough patch that becomes more raised over time.  Basal cell carcinoma skin growths usually appear pink, scaly or as an easily bleeding spot.  Both of the non-melanoma cancers have more than a 90 percent cure rate if caught and treated early. 

There are numerous ways to reduce risks when spending time in the sun, and even though skin cancer is a serious health issue, it does not mean people should fear enjoying summer months and outdoor activities.  Learning about prevention and risk factors, as well as being able to recognize skin growths indicating early stages of skin cancer can help significantly reduce the number of fatalities suffered.