Skin cancer a concern for Grand County residents |

Skin cancer a concern for Grand County residents

Tami Griffith, CFNP-BC / Health Perspective
Granby, CO Colorado

Skin cancer is a growing concern worldwide. And because of Grand County’s high elevation, abundance of sunny days and outdoors lifestyle, it should be on the minds of local residents too.

The death of a prominent and young local musician a few years ago – caused by skin cancer — helped put the spotlight on local skin cancer risks.

There are three types of skin cancer.

• Basal Cell Cancer – This is the most common type of skin cancer and has been increasing 10 percent in the U.S. every year. It’s rare to metastasize, affects males more than females and occurs mainly in those over 40 years of age. About 70 percent of the lesions are found on the face. Anyone diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma has a 40 percent chance of developing another one in five years.

• Squamous Cell – The 2nd most common type of skin cancer, this can be invasive locally but rarely metastasizes to other areas. It affects males more than females. Lesions may appear smooth, or crusty, with red/brown/black/pearly color. The cure rate is 90-95 percent.

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• Melanoma – Melanoma is the sixth most common cancer in the world and is increasing more than any other preventable cancer in the U.S. This cancer occurs when the pigment-producing cells begin to grow uncontrollably and invade surrounding tissues.

It is estimated that more than 68,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma this year and 8,700 will die. It affects males more than females and Caucasians more than African-Americans and Hispanics. It’s more common in 20-40-year-olds. It can and does metastasize, especially if not “caught early.”

Lesions may be asymmetrical, black, blue, and/or red in color, and larger than 6 mm. Location of growths: back/lower legs for Caucasians, hands, feet, and nails for African-Americans.

Risk Factors for skin cancer include family history, fair skin (blue or green-eyed individuals, red or blond hair, Northern European descent) and exposure to sunlight. Studies show that individuals that experienced short but intense sunburns are more prone to skin cancer than those with more frequent but shorter exposure time.

Tanning beds can contribute to skin cancer development. Studies show that exposure to tanning beds before the age of 35 increases risk of melanoma, and the risk of Squamous Cell and Basal Cell Carcinoma increase from 1.5- 2.5 percent as well.

There has been a connection between individuals with the HPV virus and the development of Squamous Cell Cancer. Arsenic and coal tar exposure are other risk factors.

People can help prevent the onset of skin cancer. Health care professionals agree on the following six points:

• Wear sunscreen with a SPF of approximately 30 year-round.

• Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when exposed to the sun. Many sports clothes today have some SFP coverage.

• Coffee has anti-oxidant properties that have been shown to decrease the risk of developing melanoma in the later years.

• Examine your skin on a regular basis, have your spouse/significant other have a close look at your skin as well. Many skin cancers have first been noticed by a person’s significant other before being evaluated by a provider.

• Have an annual skin exam by your primary care provider or dermatologist.

• If you notice any new growth, any change in a pre-existing growth, make an appointment and receive an evaluation by a health care professional.

And don’t forget to attend the skin care clinic March 5 at Granby Medical Center.

– Tami Griffith, CFNP-BC, of Granby Medical Center, writes a health-related column every other week as a community service.

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