Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Fun in the sun may not be fun for your skin

 Do you have a spot on your foot that you're not too sure what it could be? This may be a sign of skin cancer. This week we will be discussing how to identify a spot as skin cancer, steps your doctor may take, how to treat it, and last but not least how to prevent it.

Skin cancer develops when "mutations" of the skin's DNA grows rapidly and out of control. When it does this it begins to develop cancerous cells. There are three common skin cancers -- basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Actinic Keratoses are referred to as "pre-cancers." The most common warning sign of skin cancer is when the skin begins to change appearance. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in humans. Many types of lesions, or abnormalities in the tissue of an organism, can develop on the skin and most of these lesions are benign, a mass of cells (tumor) that lacks the ability to invade neighboring tissue or metastasize, or non harmful. Some hints on inspection can help distinguish which ones are concerning and which ones are less concerning.

Since your podiatrist is checking your feet, they are able to give a good inspection of your lower legs and ankles while sitting in the exam chair. Some characteristics to consider are: Color: Benign skin lesions are generally uniform in color, or the same color throughout. Borders/Shape: Benign lesions are generally uniform in shape and tend to be smooth  with a regular feel to the surface. Growth rate: New appearing skin lesions or rapid growth or change in size can be a concern for a more suspicious lesion. Ulcerating or bleeding skin lesions: these can be a concern for more aggressive type skin cancers.

Sometimes dark lesions under the toenail can be a concern although 90-95% of the time this will be due to dry blood or bruise from either an injury or repeated jamming of the toe in the shoes. For any type of lesion, under the nail or on the skin, your foot doctor will likely monitor and if any concern, can easily perform a biopsy in the office under local anesthetic which will help give a definitive diagnosis,and in some very rare cases, may save a limb or a life. Skin cancers of the feet are more often related to viruses, exposure to some chemicals, chronic inflammation, irritation, or inherited traits.

There are a lot of different ways to treat skin cancer. Some treatment options are freezing. Your doctor can get rid of early skin cancers by freezing them with liquid nitrogen (cryosurgery). The dead tissue sloughs off when it thaws. More known options are radiation, when surgery is not an option, and chemotherapy. Laser therapy. A precise and intense beam of light vaporizes growths with generally little damage to surrounding tissue. A doctor may use this therapy to treat superficial skin cancers.

Ways to prevent getting skin cancer on your feet is putting sunscreen on them, as directed on the bottle. Wearing protective shoes that block the harmful rays. Try to stay inside or in the shade as much as possible; from 10 a.m.- 4 p.m. when the suns rays are more harmful.

When you cannot go see a doctor you should do a regular examine especially if you spend many hours outside. Examine your skin often for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks. Contact your doctor immediately if you think you may have any signs of skin cancer.

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