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October is Breast Cancer awareness month and a perfect time to learn the facts about this very common and potentially deadly disease. Below are some facts from Breastcancer.org, where you can find out more information if you or a loved one is fighting this cancer.

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  • 1 out if 8 women will get breast cancer during their lifetime (12%)
  • A man’s risk for breast cancer is 1 in 1000
  • In 2015 – 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed
  • In 2015- over 40,000 women are expected to die from breast cancer
  • Breast cancer has the 2nd highest mortality rate for cancers with the exception of lung cancer in women
  • 2nd to skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer for American women
  • Under the age of 45, African American women are at higher risk than white women
  • Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are at lower risk of developing breast cancer at any age
  • Risk doubles if a woman has a first degree relative (mother, sister, daughter) that had breast cancer
  • Only 5-10% of breast cancer can be linked to having the genes BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • If you have BRCA1 you risk goes up to 45-55%
  • BRCA2 the risk is 45%
  • 85% of breast cancer occurs with NO family history
  • Top risk factors are gender and aging

While exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and maintaining a healthy weight all contribute to staying cancer free, the best weapon against breast cancer is a mammogram. There are two main types of mammograms available today, film or digital, talk to your doctor to see which is most appropriate for you. Film mammograms and digital both take two pictures of the breasts. The difference is how they are printed and stored. The actual process is the same but the storing of the results is different. Film is on film and digital is on a computer. The benefit to the digital is that they can be shared between doctors easily and blown up to see closer if something looks suspicious. There is also a 3D mammogram, which is available in 48 of our 50 states. The 3D mammogram takes images form various angles of the breast in ‘slices’, which allows for a deeper more accurate view. However, 3D mammograms are not always covered by insurance and are costly at $100.These mammograms are good for younger women, women with dense breast tissue or implants. Studies have shown that 3D mammography may help up to 40% more to detect cancer. They also lessen the ‘call backs’ because they are so precise.

Knowledge and early detection saves lives. Mammograms take 10-20 minutes and while they can be uncomfortable they do not hurt. If you have a family history of breast cancer mammograms are being recommended at an earlier age than 40. Talk to your mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and friends. Urge them to get tested and have yearly mammograms. Another great way to help fight this disease is by raising money and participating in a Breast Cancer walk/run. Think Pink!

 

With Spring in full wing and Summer on its heels, the sun is out! The only real way to avoid skin cancer and sun damage is to never go outside during the daylight hours. Obviously this is not a reality for most people. Find out how to stay properly protected for the upcoming sunny months.

Proper SPF coverage is crucial when it comes to protection against skin cancer and sun damage (dark spots and hyper pigmentation). Every time you go outdoors you are getting sun exposure which is why it is important to cover all areas of the body. Confusion about SPF types and numbers leads many people astray and left unprotected by the correct sunscreen. Broad spectrum SPF, which simply means protection against UVA and UVB rays, at a minimum of SPF 30, is a must. A physical sunscreen (containing Titanium dioxide or Zinc oxide) is best. The most common areas people protect are the face, shoulders, arms and back, while often ignoring crucial areas like the scalp, lips, tops of feet, and eyes.

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The face is extremely vulnerable to skin cancer and burning (caused by UVB rays), dark spots, hyper pigmentation and wrinkles (caused by UVA rays) and should always be protected with an SPF of at least 30. Wearing a hat and protective gear/clothing is crucial when outdoors. Commonly missed or ignored areas such as the lips, nose and the tops of ears are in danger of non melanoma cancers and should always be covered with sunscreen, clothes or gloves.

Don’t forget about your scalp. This is not only a warning to bald men, though at highest risk, but also form women and anyone with hair. Yes, hair can protect your scalp but sun rays can still get thru and burn you. Wearing a hat is very important when in direct sunlight as well as putting on SPF if any areas of the scalp are exposed. Bald men need to always wear SPF and a hat. The other lurking danger with the scalp is that hair can hide an actual skin cancer. Visiting your Dermatologist once a year and getting a body check can protect against developing skin cancer or treating early signs.

Don’t forget to protect your eyes, they can get sun burned too! The best way to protect the eyes and eye region is to invest in good quality sunglasses that protect 100% from UVA/UVB rays, the larger the better to protect the delicate skin in the eye region.

The tops of hands and feet are also vulnerable to burns usually because they are forgotten. Apply sunscreen to both if you’re going to barefoot or in open toes shoes. Hands get lots of sun form driving, so always wear an SPF if not a trendy pair of driving gloves. One of the most common and dangerous areas for skin cancers and melanoma is the back. This is mostly pertaining to men as they tend to not ask someone to rub sunscreen on their backs. Try wearing a shirt if you’re mowing the lawn or in the water for a long period of time.

Remember to choose broad spectrum SPF, apply and reapply throughout the day, wear protective hats and clothing and always go for a yearly skin cancer check up with a dermatologist.

The definition of skin cancer from skincancer.org is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells. It occurs when unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds) triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are many types of skin cancer but the three we hear the most about are Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and Melanoma. To the naked eye these can all look similar which is why it is imperative to see your Dermatologist once a year for a full body scan. If you notice something different or new on your body go see your doctor. All of these skin cancers can be cured or treated if detected early. SCC (in rare cases) and Melanoma more frequently can cause death if they grow and spread. Learn the symptoms and get checked. Most likely anything you find is in very early stages and is easily treatable. Knowledge is your greatest weapon.

1. Basal Cell Carcinoma

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  • Found in outer most layers of the skin
  • Can be disfiguring if allowed to grow
  • Very rarely metastasizes (spreads)
  •  Most common form of cancer

Symptoms/Warning Signs

  • Open sore that bleeds
  • Red patch (can be mistaken for rosacea)
  • Shiny bump
  • Pink growth-can be elevated with a depression in the middle
  • Scar like looking area that can be void of color and looks stretched and shiny

2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma

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  • Found in upper layers of skin
  • Can cause disfigurement if allowed to grow
  • Can cause death if allowed to grow (although very rare)
  • Grow deeper into the skin than BCC
  • Usually found on face, ears, lips, neck and tops of the hands

Symptoms/Warning Signs

  • Thick and rough sore
  • Scaly red sore
  • Red patch/crusty/bleeds
  • Sore with irregular boarders and crust
  • Can be brown/darker than BCC
  • Can look like a wart
  • Can be elevated with depression in middle

3. Melanoma

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  • Caused by mutation of cells found in the pigment of moles and freckles.
  • DNA is mutated due to UV exposure or predisposition
  • Can cause death
  • Can return once treated
  • Can develop without having had over UV exposure or sunburn
  • Can spread fast

Symptoms/Warning Signs

  • Asymmetry
  • Changes in size or color(pigment) of an existing mole
  • Uneven boarders of a mole
  • Can be black in color or brown
  • Can be pink in color or multi-colored
  • Diameter can be large but not necessary
  • Cancer can show up in places we may not always think to check. Seeing your Dermatologist once a year can put your mind at ease and possibly save your life.

A few areas skin cancer can show up are the following:

  • Moles – look for change is size, color or shape
  • Nail beds
  • Scalp
  • Soles of feet
  • Palms of the hands