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Skin Cancer 101

by Bridget Anderson. N.M.D.
Wednesday Oct 23, 2013

It's time to bare all and discuss our skin. When was the last time you really took a close look at yours and examined all of its beauty marks, spots, moles and dimples? If it's been more than a month it's been too long. There are 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer annually and the Skin Cancer Foundation has estimated there will be approximately 9,000 deaths from melanoma skin cancer and 3,000 from non-melanoma skin cancer in the next year. Let's bring that number down!


1. Avoid sunburns and/or tanning. Any UV light exposure, whether from direct sun, a tanning bed or incidental, causes cellular damage -- all of which can lead to premature aging and skin cancer.

2. Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

3. Wear a hat with at least a three-inch brim.

4. Apply approximately two to three ounces of a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours or after you towel dry.

5. Schedule a yearly skin exam with your doctor.


Once a month, in good lighting, strip down and examine the front, back, right and left sides of your body. Then use a hand mirror to look at the back of your neck, back and buttocks. Look over your scalp, face, lips, forearms, upper arms, hands, feet, palms of hands, soles of feet, nails and genitals for any skin changes. Take a picture or write down any mole or lesion you are concerned with and show your doctor.

Do a tactile examination as well and feel for any areas of roughness, scaling or tenderness to detect developing Actinic keratoses, which are most common in sun-exposed areas and are a precancerous lesion.


A=Asymmetry. Does one half not match the other half?

B=Borders. Is the border irregular or look like it's bleeding into the surrounding skin?

C=Color. Are there varied shades of tan, black, brown, blue or red in the same mole?

D=Diameter. Is it over six millimeters in diameter or larger than a pencil eraser?

E=Evolving. Is the mole or lesion changing in size, shape or shade color?


• If you answer yes to any ABCDE.
• If it oozes, bleeds, crusts, itches, lasts longer than one month or doesn't heal.
• If it feels scaly or rough like sandpaper.


BENIGN: This is a noncancerous skin coloration
or marking.

MALIGNANT: Cancerous cells that have the ability to invade other cells or metastasize.

SEBORRHEIC KERATOSIS: A common benign growth that appears on sun exposed areas. Usually brown, black or pale in color, with a waxy, scaly or elevated appearance.

ACTINIC KERATOSIS: A pre-cancerous growth commonly referred to as an AK, which can lead to Squamous cell carcinoma. A scaly, rough patch is usually felt before seen, the texture of sandpaper typically on sun-exposed areas of skin. It can be flesh-colored, red, tan or brown. Occasionally, the lesion will itch and become red or inflamed.

BASAL CELL CARCINOMA: The most common form of skin cancer, from abnormal growth of basal cells in the deepest layer of the epidermis in sun-damaged areas of the body. Typically slow growing, it may have a pearl-like, pink or red coloration. Basal cell carcinoma can look like a scar or open wound as the lesion can begin to ulcerate. Some telangiectasias (tiny blood vessels) may be visible as well. Basal Cell Carcinoma rarely spreads from the original site but can disfigure and should be removed by a physician.

SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA: The second most common form of skin cancer comes from abnormal growth of Squamous cells in the epidermis. Most frequently found in sun-damaged areas of skin, it can however, also be found on the genitals and mucous membranes of the mouth. This lesion typically appears as a red scaly patch, raised lesion with a central depression, wart-like, or an open sore, and may crust or bleed. These lesions can be disfiguring and may metastasize if allowed to grow.

MELANOMA: The most dangerous form of skin cancer from the abnormal growth of DNA damaged melanocytes in the epidermis. This malignant cancer can appear as a mole or rise from an existing mole and is typically black or brown but may also be a variation or red, blue, purple, tan or white. These lesions can metastasize, so best to remove and treat early.

For more information on how to live healthy naturally contact Dr. Bridget Anderson, Naturopathic Medical Doctor at HEAL Natural Medicine. Call 714.794.9267 or email her at

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