Carcinoma is on the rise. Other than genetic disposition, excessive exposure to the sun or tanning under a sun bed are the main culprits, especially if one repeatedly suffers sunburn in childhood. Most people are aware of the dangers and know that sun protection is crucial in the summer, however, we tend to forget to use the right sunblock or apply it frequently. Worst of all, some people stay out sunbathing in the midday sun despite the warning.
Our skin remembers every single moment of sun exposure, those moments of harm add up over the years, and the consequences may be delayed by decades. To avoid the dreadful repercussions, it is worth having our pigmented skin blemishes checked regularly. With the latest diagnostics, moles on the entire skin surface can be mapped and screened, although in 80 percent of the cases a manual dermatoscopic examination is sufficient. When a patient has a large number of moles and birthmarks, or when there is a precedent for malignant tumours in the family, we recommend computer aided diagnostics. Recording images of the pigmented areas makes it easy later on to detect any changes or progress in the shape and size of lesions.
Should there be any cause for concern, the dermatologist may suggest the surgical removal of birthmarks, considering their pigment structure, position and aesthetic considerations. We always conduct biopsy and histological tests.
Regular dermatological screenings and cautious sunbathing are just as essential for skin health as making sure that we eat enough fruit and veggies, increasing our intake of vitamins A, C and E, and foods that are high in antioxidants. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water – your skin will be grateful.
Good to Know
- It is a proven fact that even a single instance of sunburn at an early age increases the risk of melanoma.
- Fair skin and plenty of birthmarks further increase one’s propensity for melanoma, and call for annual check-ups.
- Early diagnosis makes skin cancer 100 percent curable.
- Melanoma is the most common type of skin cancer, and it usually starts from a birthmark. However, it can develop on a clear skin surface as well, that is why regular screenings are essential.
- Moles in awkward places – where nails, the shaving razor, jewellery or clothes might cause repeated irritation – are advisable to have removed, because frequent injuries may turn them into malignant lesions over time.
- The single most harmful environmental effect that ages skin rapidly is the UV-A radiation of the sun.
- Before taking medication, check the label if it causes light sensitivity. If so, take precautions outdoors.
- Be careful with “DIY doctoring” when it comes to your skin – there’s more than enough good advice on social media, and online experts, friends and family are also happy to give their two-cents of wisdom about prevention and cure. Take these with a pinch of salt!
What to do? Doctor’s order – Dr. Márta Földes, dermatologist
If you detected any unusual deformation on your skin you should consult a dermatologist immediately. Don’t forget that early diagnosis is still the best cure of carcinomas.
You should definitely visit your dermatologist if an existing mole changes colour, its surface becomes uneven and shows tiny pigment outgrowth, the edges become irregular, its shape asymmetrical, it is visibly spreading and protruding from the surface, the surrounding area is itchy, painful, often sore or bleeding. New pigmentation apart from existing moles is also a cause for concern.
It is best to see your dermatologist before the summer is in full swing, to get expert advice about the use of sunblock from a specialist, and have any necessary preventive procedure done before the holiday season – you don’t want to be out in the sun with dodgy spots after all. An overall birthmark mapping can be done any time of the year, and everyone should consider regular screenings, at least once a year. If your skin shows lots of birthmarks with irregular shapes and pigmentation, you are advised to have them checked twice a year.
Careful sunbathing is the best precaution. Avoid direct sunshine between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., other times use high factor suncream to avoid sunburn, the unpleasant symptoms of which may be alleviated in a few days but the damage is done and its harmful consequences are likely to haunt you in the long run.