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Even Treatable Skin Cancer Is No Sunny Experience

Author : Kashen Luo

Submitted : 2010-05-20 23:12:29    Word Count : 627    Popularity:   97

Tags:   Sunglasses, Cheap Sunglasses, Discount Sunglasses

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The most common cancers known to humankind are not, fortunately, the most deadly. The vast majority of non-melanoma skin cancers can be cured in a single day, in a single procedure. But they still have a major impact. More than 2 million Americans were treated for 3.5 million non-melanoma skin cancers (mostly basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas) in 2006 and the numbers are growing steadily, one new study says.
"It's a huge public health problem" clearly linked to too much sun exposure and tanning, says Brett Coldiron, a dermatologist in Cincinnati and a co-author of the study, published in the March Archives of Dermatology. The study, which counted skin cancer removals among Medicare recipients and estimated cases in the rest of the population, found twice as many of the cancers as a 1994 study (done with different methods). It also found skin cancer removals in Medicare patients increased 4% a year from 1992 to 2006.
It's possible the new study overcounted some cancers that required multiple treatments. But it also missed cancers fully removed during biopsies, the authors say.
"In any case, we're talking about large numbers of individuals," says Robert Stern, a dermatologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He conducted another study that concluded one in five white, non-Hispanic Americans has at least one non-melanoma skin cancer by age 70.
Many have had experiences like these:
Kristin Epps, 32, of Houston says she got in her car and "bawled like a baby" the day a doctor told her the spot on her collarbone and the persistent pimple on her cheek were skin cancers. Returning for surgery on her face "was one of the scariest things I've ever been though in my life," Epps says. She wore bandages for weeks and needed a laser procedure to reduce scarring.
"I'm embarrassed by it," says Jim Curtis, 72, of Lafayette, Colo. The otherwise-healthy retiree runs, hikes and plays golf. His four skin cancers were souvenirs of a careless youth, he says: "I used to try to get as sunburned as I could." Now he dutifully wears hats and sunscreens and checks in with his dermatologist every three or four months.
Pat Henneberry, 48, of Austin saw her grandmother lose her nose to skin cancer treated too late and has had so many of her own skin cancers removed that she has lost count. She blames years of combining oil-slathered sunbathing with pale Irish skin. "I love the sun, and I wish it wasn't damaging. ... But now I know my skin is an organ, like my liver or my kidney, that I have to treat right." She still spends lots of time outside, but she wears long sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, big sunglasses and plenty of sunscreen.
The fact that the face is the most common place for these cancers increases their profile, says Deborah Sarnoff, a dermatologist in New York City and vice president of the non-profit Skin Cancer Foundation. "Your face is the first thing people see. It's your billboard. It's your identity."
Modern surgery can do wonders, "but you almost always end up with a scar," Coldiron says. And, even today, some people fare much worse. "I've seen people lose their eyes," says Howard Rogers, a dermatologist in Norwich, Conn., and co-author of the Medicare study. "And there are rare cases of death," he says, usually from squamous cell carcinomas, which are most dangerous for people with suppressed immunity.
Regardless of outcome, "people don't like hearing the word 'cancer' at all," Coldiron says. It comes as an especially big shock to young people, Sarnoff says: "It used to be unusual to see teenagers or women in their 20 or 30s with skin cancer. It's not that unusual anymore."

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