Cancer and the Southwest
By Dr. Colin R. Trout, M.D.
Dermatologist. Tucson Arizona.
Skin cancer is the most prevalent of all cancers
with over one million Americans developing skin cancer
this year. It has been in the media as of late with
the news that the First Lady recently had a squamous
cell carcinoma removed from her leg. Skin cancer
is a very common occurrence here in the southwest
and some statistics have indicated that the Tucson
area has the second highest incidence of skin cancer
in the world.
Basal cell carcinoma
- Most common skin cancer
- Appears as a pearly bump, nodule
or red plaque
- Grows slowly over months
- Generally occurs on sun-exposed
- They can occur in areas that are
not frequently exposed to the sun
- When untreated, will often bleed,
crust over, heal, and then repeat the cycle.
Basal cell carcinomas rarely
- They can cause significant local
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Second most common type of skin
- Usually occurs on sun-exposed
areas, including the ears, face (including the lips),
neck and arms
- Typically appear as red, scaly
plaques that may bleed and never heal
- Can metastasize to other areas
of the body
- It is important to have them treated
- The most dangerous type of skin
- It is estimated that 8,000 Americans
will die from it this year
- Usually pigmented (dark in color)
- Frequently have an irregular shape
- Uneven borders
- Variations in color.
- May be larger than average nevi
- They often change in shape and/or
- They can occasionally bleed, or
be itchy or painful
- May develop in a pre-existing
nevus or start as a new, dark lesion.
Prevention is the best defense against
skin cancer. While sun avoidance it the best prevention,
it is hard to completely avoid the sun here in the
southwest. Sun protection is our next level of defense.
The cowboys had it right by wearing wide-brimmed hats,
long-sleeved shirts made of dense fabric, and pants.
That is not the usual attire in Tucson, especially
during the summer, so high SPF broad spectrum sunscreen,
hats that cover the ears, and clothing designed for
sun protection are recommended daily.
Skin cancer is highly curable with
early detection and treatment. We recommend that patients
perform a self-assessment skin exam monthly and be
seen by a dermatologist at least once a year for a
complete skin exam. If you have a lesion you are concerned
about, have it checked by a dermatologist as soon as