South Texas is called the hotbed of skin cancer for a reason. In June, there are nearly 280 hours of sunshine, and a peak of 308 in August.
That’s a lot of UV radiation exposure.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., with more than 2 million Americans diagnosed each year. While melanoma isn’t as common, accounting for only 2 percent of all skin cancers, it is the most deadly.
There will be an estimated 73,870 new cases of melanoma diagnosed this year, and nearly 10,000 people were expected to die in 2015 from the cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
While it’s easy to think about getting too much sun exposure from direct, bright sunlight, UV rays can affect you even on cloudy and hazy days, and can be reflected off of surfaces such as water, snow, sand and cement. UV radiation exposure is responsible for more than 90 percent of melanoma skin cancers.
And it only takes five or more sunburns in a lifetime to double your risk for getting melanoma.
“Here in South Texas, we’re sitting in a hotbed of skin cancer. There is a misconception that skin cancer only affects certain races. In fact, it affects people of all races, all ages and both genders. It’s a major cause of concern,” said Vineet Mishra, M.D., director of Mohs Surgery and Procedural Dermatology at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Mohs is a micrographic surgery that allows physicians to remove a tumor while leaving the surrounding healthy tissue unharmed. Dr. Mishra is one of nearly 1,200 fellowship-trained Mohs surgeons in the U.S.
Mohs surgery is the most effective treatment for most types of skin cancer and has the highest cure rate.
In skin cancer, a small lesion can conceal a dangerous mass with roots underneath, similar to the potential threat of an iceberg—you never know what’s lurking beneath the surface. With Mohs surgery, skin cancer is removed in layers. After each layer is removed, it is examined under a microscope. The process continues until healthy tissue around the cancer, or a clear margin, is reached.
Types of skin cancer
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It most frequently affects people with fair skin.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer, and most often affects those with fair skin.
- Melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer and often develops as an asymmetric, irregularly bordered, multi-colored, large and evolving dark spot.
Ways to prevent skin cancer
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests easy options for protection from UV radiation:
- Stay in the shade, especially at peak sun hours during the middle of the day.
- Cover your arms and legs with clothing.
- Wear hats, especially those with wide brims that cover your entire face, ears and neck.
- Wear large sunglasses that block out both UVA and UVB rays.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 50 or higher, and one that offers both UVA and UVB protection.
- Don’t use tanning beds or other indoor tanning facilities.