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Editor's note: As a spa professional, you are in a unique position to be able to help clients identify skin cancer. Be sure to make note of any marks that appear odd, according to the information below, and be sure to recommend a visit to the dermatologist if it is in order. Also, it is important to be able to refer clients to a reputable dermatologist if they don't already have one. One more thing ... make sure that clients perform the home skin care checks as advised in this piece.
Skin cancer is a scary subject. "No one wants to think about developing a disfiguring, even deadly, disease, therefore so many Americans live in a state of denial," says Joshua Fox, MD, a leading dermatologist and medical director of Advanced Dermatology of New York and New Jersey. "Most people know they are supposed to be checking their skin monthly for changes that might be cancer, but they aren't exactly diligent about it. It's something that gets put off for later, often indefinitely."
But skipping the skin scans can be dangerous, says Paige Farkas, MD, a dermatologist specializing in skin cancer screening at Advanced Dermatology. "There have been significant advances in the treatment of skin cancer, including the deadly types, but we know that the front-end things--detection, diagnosis and immediate treatment--are still critical." In fact, she says, despite the fact that skin cancer is among the simplest types of cancer to identify since it's visible on the outside of the body, the rates continue to rise. And although nonmelanoma cancers have a relatively good prognosis, melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can quickly become lethal. In fact, new research shows that melanoma cells have a unique ability to override even the healthiest immune system, eventually spreading far beyond the initial site.
The truth is, checking your skin regularly, and making an appointment to have your dermatologist do the same, is the best and only way to catch skin cancer before it spreads. "For the past 25 years, we've told people to pay attention to the ABCDs of pigmented skin irregularities," Fox says. "Asymmetry, border irregularity, color variation, and diameter more than 6 mm (about ¼ inch). These are still the key to identifying a problem growth among a bunch of innocuous looking freckles and moles," he says.
Here are the rules of skin cancer screening. Make sure your clients do these at home.