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Legatus Magazine

Cover Story
Ron Hollowell | author
Jun 01, 2008
Filed under Your Health
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Getting the jump on skin cancer

Over the past few decades, Americans have gained a greater awareness of the potential health hazards that come with increased exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The medical community agrees that as the ozone layer depletes, the risk for skin cancer increases.

As an advocate of preventive medicine, Legatus Healthnetwork encourages members to be wary of prolonged exposure to the sun. People exposed to excessive amounts of sunlight are susceptible to skin cancer or melanoma if they fail to defend adequately against UV rays, says Dr. Sewa S. Legha, a medical oncologist at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, a Healthnetwork GOLD hospital in Houston.

A nationally recognized skin cancer expert, Legha recommends a thorough skin examination by a physician who can determine whether atypical moles or a family history of skin cancer can lead to more serious problems.

During a skin examination, your doctor will be able to determine if you have too many moles or atypical moles, identifying them with the acronym ABCDE. A is asymmetry, B for border, C for color, D for diameter and E for evolving. If you notice change in a mole that looks or feels different from your others, Legha suggests you see a dermatologist as soon as possible.

The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. The majority of basal cell carcinomas occur on the face. They start as a small, pink spot with a circular or oval shape. As they progress, basal cell carcinomas become raised, develop a crust and have undefined edges.

Squamous cell carcinomas are found primarily on the neck, head, arms and legs. They, too, are pink with raised edges and a hard surface. If detected early enough, the survival rate for skin cancer (and melanoma) is about 99%, according to the National Cancer Institute.

“Most forms of skin cancer and melanoma arise in a person’s later years — primarily in their 50s — as a result of cumulative UV exposure from the sun, sunlamps and tanning beds,” Legha notes. “Most of the sun damage takes place during their teen years and into their 20s and 30s. Skin cancers can take 15 – 20 years to develop.”

Legha recommends taking extra precautions with the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. He also says liberal amounts of sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating of 30 or higher, broad brimmed hats and cotton clothing are your best defense against the sun.

Contact us (information below) to schedule an appointment for your skin examination by a dermatologist at one of Legatus Healthnetwork’s GOLD or alliance hospitals.

Ron Hollowell is Healthnetwork’s Director of Marketing.

Healthnetwork is a membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. For information on how this can work for you, call (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. E-mail: help@healthnetworkfoundation.org

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