The past few years have shown that skin cancer is on the rise. This increase can be attributed to a continuously aging population along with greater exposure to UV light (e.g. sunbeds, vacations, outdoor sports, hole in the ozone layer). While new cases are increasing in frequency, the age of those being affected is noticeably younger.
The consistent use of preventative light protection measures in the form of sunscreens with a high sun protection factor (at least 30+) has become essential, although it is often not sufficient on its own. Considering the dramatic rise in skin cancers, the need for skin cancer prevention has become more vital than ever.
What is Skin Cancer?
The term ‘skin cancer’ refers to a variety of cancers of the skin that vary in type and appearance. This includes malignant tumors such as malignant melanomas and semi-malignant tumors such as non-melanoma skin cancers (e.g. basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma).
The occurrence of skin cancers can be traced in many cases to high levels of exposure to the sun. Intensive and long term UV sun damage along with severe sun burns often play a decisive role.
The following types of skin cancer occur the most frequently:
Skin Cancer Prevention
With the help of skin cancer screenings and regular check-ups, the risk of developing skin cancer can be reduced many times over. This also enables the early detection of malignant skin mutations along with the early stages of skin cancer (e.g. actinic keratosis). When skin cancer is detected early enough, it can be treated effectively and cured 100% of the time, as a rule.
A precise diagnosis along with the best possible modern cancer prevention measures, help to avoid unnecessary biopsies and/or operations.
Regular preventative check-ups, in individually determined intervals, are particularly important for at-risk patients. The following Risk Check will help you determine if you belong to a high risk group.
The risk of getting skin cancer in the course of your life increases when one or more of the following are true:
- Repeated and/or severe sunburns in childhood
- Long-term exposure to the sun (e.g. work-related, outdoor sports, trips overseas, etc.)
- Regular visits to tanning salons
- Fair skin types that are sensitive to light (red/blond hair, freckles, light-colored eyes)
- More than 50 moles
- Skin cancer history in the family
- Own history of skin cancer (including early stages of skin cancer, e.g. actinic keratosis)
ABC Mole Rule
Moles are usually benign skin growths that nevertheless have a statistically higher probability of developing into skin cancer, such as malignant melanoma.
Moles should definitely be monitored over time and those affected should check their moles regularly for changes or ask a family member to check body areas that can’t be reached (such as the back or head). If a mole shows signs of change, it is definitely time for a visit to a dermatologist. Every change to a mole is critical and requires a medical examination.
The ABC-Rules can help in the detection of suspicious moles:
- A Asymmetry (irregular form)
- B Boundary (irregular with ragged/blurred edges)
- C Color (the different coloration of a mole, e.g. black, brown, reddish or grey-white pigmentation)
- D Diameter (moles larger than 5 millimeters)
- E Elevation/Evolution (elevation of the raised surface, rapid increase in size, bleeding, itching)
If a mole shows signs of one or more of the above mentioned characteristics, don’t delay in making an appointment with a dermatologist!
Skin Cancer Screening
In a skin cancer screening, the skin and mucous membranes are examined thoroughly by a dermatologist. The examination is carried out using a special magnifying light (dermatoscope) and/or computer assisted reflected light microscopy.
Today, dermatoscopy is an indispensable skin cancer screening method which has significantly improved diagnostics. It’s used in the early detection of malignant skin mutations.
Pigmented skin mutations can be more easily examined at a 10x magnification using a special magnifying light called a dermatoscope.
Computer Assisted Reflected Light Microscopy
The most modern and safe method of skin cancer screening is computer assisted reflected light microscopy, which is used for the early detection of skin mutations along with their pictorial documentation. This procedure has considerably improved the assessment, evaluation and long-term documentation of mutations to the skin.
Patients can view the entire examination process on a computer screen with digital reflected light microscopy. Suspicious skin mutations are recorded up to a 50x magnification with a special high-performance camera and displayed on a computer monitor. The computer evaluates the image data based on certain factors (e.g. extent of the change to the skin, the form, pigmentation, etc.) and identifies/determines/generates the risk parameters. This provides an initial estimation of whether the skin mutations can be classified as harmless, suspicious or dangerous.
The image data of suspicious skin mutations can be saved so that they can be compared to the digital recordings at the next examination. This makes it possible to detect even the smallest of changes which are invisible to the naked eye.
Using precise diagnostics and the best possible monitoring procedures, unnecessary biopsies and/or operations can usually be avoided with the aid of computer assisted reflected light microscopy.
Only a biopsy (removal of a tissue sample) can give final clarity to whether a suspicious skin mutation is benign or malignant. Computer assisted image analysis cannot replace the knowhow and experience of a qualified dermatologist in the evaluation of moles, in spite of the increased diagnostic certainty they offer, however, they provide the best possible support in their work.
The advantages of computer assisted reflected light microscopy
- Best possible monitoring of suspicious moles
- Optimum early detection
- Improved differentiation between harmless and malignant changes to the skin
- Simplified documentation and progress monitoring of suspicious skin mutations
- Recognition of the tiniest changes in the skin
- Avoidance of unnecessary biopsies and/or operations
Cancer Screening Frequency
The correct choice of screening frequency is of great importance in the early detection of malignant skin diseases. The optimum frequency of preventive cancer screening can be determined based on the appearance of the individual’s skin. Upon request, the patient can receive automatic reminders for these appointments.
When individual screening appointment schedules are adhered to, suspicious skin mutations can be detected and removed in time. Unnecessary biopsies and/or operations can be avoided for the most part through regular screening appointments.