By Dr. Kaycee Reyes
Bronzed skin can make you look healthy and glowing, but before you go out and tan, listen up. Did you know that skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer today? Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is a type of skin cancer that has slowly been rising in the last 30 years. Do you think you are at risk? Let’s find out.
Skin cancer can be classified into two types: melanoma and non-melanoma. BCC is a type of non-melanoma skin cancer that is common among pale or lighter-skinned individuals, including Caucasians, Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanics. Those with fair skin are more susceptible to BCC as darker-skinned individuals naturally have more melanin in their skin that can better shield the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. But those with constant and prolonged ultraviolet exposure, regardless of skin color, may also be at risk as UV exposure is a main cause of BCC. This means spending long periods under the sun (whether due to tanning, sports, or by one’s profession).
And while BCC is not hereditary, the skin characteristics of an individual can be passed on (like one’s skin color). On the upside, BCC rarely spreads on the body. It is highly treatable with early detection. BCC may vary in appearance, from a scaly patch of skin to a small inflamed lump that usually appears on the face, ears, and neck, but may also appear on other parts of the body.
This is why, while BCC can easily be diagnosed by a dermatologist, they still take a skin sample of the affected area (skin biopsy) to verify the condition. Once diagnosed, the patient is given different treatment options, depending on the size, location, and quantity of BCC on the body.
Forms of treatment include:
- Excision of the BCC with four millimeters extension or Moh’s Surgery
- Cryotherapy by freezing the affected area to stop the growth of BCC
- Curettage and cautery by removing the affected skin and applying heat
- Radiotherapy using radiation to treat the area
- Vismodegib, a type of chemotherapy drug taken by patients with multiple BCCs
If you have had BCC before, chances are higher that you may have it again. This is why it is always best to:
- Wear protective clothing as often as possible. Hats, umbrellas, long-sleeved, collared shirts, and trousers are extra helpful.
- Keep your skin protected every day with sun block, cloudy days included. Apply generously even on skin covered with clothing. Reapply every two to three hours and after every towel-dry (if swimming). Refrain from going out at peak hours (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
- Avoid tanning and tanning beds as much as possible.
- Check your skin regularly even in places you cannot see (check using mirrors or ask help from someone you know). Any changes on the skin such as scabs or sores that do not heal, a change on its appearance, or scabs that bleed must be checked immediately.
Now that the ozone layer has somehow depleted, the UVB rays are much stronger than before. This is why it is more critical than ever to protect your skin regularly and keep yourself aware of any changes on your skin. Tan skin may be in, but if achieving a golden glow is your goal, think again.