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Skin Cancer Easy to Cure with Early Removal

Laura Bush's skin cancer came with a classic symptom, a slow-healing sore.

That made it hard to ignore, a good thing: Remove skin cancer early, and it's easy to cure.

Better is preventing skin cancer, and key is protecting yourself—and your children, starting when they're tots—from the sun. Sunburns early in life are considered the most dangerous.

Too few heed that advice. Skin cancer strikes over 1 million Americans annually, and is on the rise.

The toll probably won't drop "until this generation that started using sunscreen in childhood grows up," predicts Dr. Clifford Perlis, a dermatologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.

Between 1 million and 1.2 million Americans are diagnosed each year with basal or squamous cell carcinoma, the most common and easy-to-treat skin cancers.

The first lady had a squamous cell carcinoma excised from her right shin in November.

Melanoma is the most lethal skin cancer, and strikes about 62,000 Americans a year. Of the 10,700 skin-cancer deaths annually, almost 8,000 are due to melanoma. Yet if caught before it has spread, even melanoma is survivable.

Most at risk for all skin cancers are people with fair skin, difficulty tanning, or a history of excessive sun exposure. For melanoma, major risk factors include a relative with the disease and having lots of moles.

Specialists urge all adults to examine their skin regularly for suspicious changes, such as a new growth or change in an old one.

Associated Press, December 20, 2006

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