Stopping Skin Cancer

  • Asymmetrical: If you draw a line through the mole, the two halves don't match.
  • Border: The mole has uneven borders.
  • Color: The mole is different shades of brown, tan or black; or the mole is red, blue or some other color.
  • Diameter: The mole is larger in diameter than 1/4 an inch.
  • Evolving: The mole changes in any way.
  • Non-melanoma cancer usually strikes in one of the following two forms: basal cell carcinoma, tumors that arise in the lowest level of the epidermis, or squamous cell carcinoma, tumors that arise in the upper layer of the skin. Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, with about one million new cases diagnosed each year. Non-melanoma skin cancer often starts as a patch or spot on the skin called an actinic keratosis (AK) lesion, the most common type of precancerous growth. You may have an AK lesion if you notice a small crusty or scaly bump or horn beneath your skin. These abnormalities usually appear on the face, lips, ears, scalp, neck, backs of the hands and forearms, shoulders and back.

    PREVENTION: Since exposure to UV light is the most common cause of skin cancer, shielding yourself from the sun's rays is the best way to protect yourself from both melanoma and non-melanoma. Here are some tips to stay skin cancer-free:

  • Perform regular self-skin evaluations.
  • Avoid tanning and UV tanning booths.
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.

  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.

  • Stay out of the sun when possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

  • When recreating outside, apply two tablespoons of sunscreen to your entire body, and reapply every two hours.

  • A NEW PREVENTIVE: Researchers are testing a new drug that may help prevent skin cancer. A niacin-based, topically applied product called Myristyl Nicotinate helps stem cells in the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, to become highly specialized cells. By strengthening the upper layer of skin, this product may protect against the re-growth of AK lesions. The trials for Myristyl Nicotinate are in Phase I, and Elaine Jacobson, Ph.D., co-developer of the drug, hopes it will be on the market by 2010.


    Elaine Jacobson, PhD
    University of Arizona/Arizona Cancer Center

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