Recognzing Skin Cancer

Knoxville (WVLT) - The news broke late Monday night that First Lady Laura Bush has undergone a procedure to have skin cancer removed.

That tumor was removed from her right shin in early November.

In this week's Healthy Tennessean, Medical Reporter Jessa Goddard has details on this form of skin cancer and how it's treated.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the us.

Mrs. Bush had squamous cell carcinoma, it's a malignant tumor and it's the second most common form of the disease.

Approximately 1.3 million Americans will be diagnosed with one of three types of skin cancer this year.

They are basal, squamous and melanoma.

First Lady Laura Bush had squamous cell carcinoma that affects the middle portion of the epidermal skin layer.

Dermatologist Doctor Matthew Doppelt says it's more aggressive than basal cell, and is more likely to spread to other areas.

"A squamous cell skin cancer has the potential to metastasized to go to other areas of the body, but that's usually if it's completely neglected and left untreated."

Squamous cell cancer is more common in the south, where fair-skinned people are exposed to the sun for prolonged periods of time.

Mrs. Bush is, of course, from Texas.

"All of the skin cancers are most commonly caused by sun exposure, no matter which one of the three that we're talking about. Now you can get skin cancers in areas where the sun doesn't shine, but that's pretty uncommon," says Dr. Doppelt.

Fortunately for the first lady, she caught it early.

Her spokesman says the patch was just about the size of a nickel.

And the tumor was removed under a local anesthetic.

The best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun, but unfortunately, most of the damage is done at an early age.

"And there's an amazing statistic that says that about 75 percent of the sun exposure that we're going to get in our lifetime occurs before we turn 20 years of age," Dr. Doppelt explains.

But just as it's never too late to quit smoking, it's never too late to start protecting yourself from the sun.

Don't confuse squamous cell carcinoma with melanoma.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

Basal and squamous cell are responsible for less than one-tenth of one percent of cancer deaths.

While the American Cancer Society estimates nearly 8,000 Americans will die from melanoma this year.


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