Kory Kitagawa, MD, FAAD, is a medical and cosmetic dermatologist and head of Kitagawa Dermatology in Honolulu, Hawaii with a special focus on providing effective treatment for skin cancer. Commonly, this type of cancer occurs on skin that is exposed frequently to the sun. However, cancer can form anywhere – even on areas that rarely or never see the sun.
Because there could be many causes for skin cancer, and symptoms can vary, you need an expert like Dr. Kitagawa, who knows what to look for, which questions to ask, and what kind of treatment options are best. If you have mysterious lesions, bumps, discolorations, and more, don’t ignore them. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.Continue Reading
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer can develop when the DNA of skin cells mutate. Mutations are not always negative, but when they are, the cells can proliferate uncontrollably and form a mass of mutated cells that eventually becomes cancerous.
Skin cancer starts in the epidermis, the protective top layer of skin that continually replenishes itself, which houses three main kinds of cells affected by cancer – squamous cells (just below the skin surface), basal cells (a layer of cells just beneath squamous cells), and melanocytes (the lowest layer of the epidermis). It’s from these cells that the names of the three major types of skin cancer are derived.
Squamous cell carcinoma develops most often in areas that get a lot of sun exposure, such as the face, hands, and ears. Squamous cell symptoms include a firm reddish nodule or a flat, scaly, crusted lesion.
Basal cell carcinoma, the most common type, also affects sun-drenched parts of the body, including the neck and nose, and could appear as a waxy-looking bump or a flat, brownish lesion that resembles a scar.
Melanoma can develop anywhere and often forms on skin that rarely receives sun exposure. Melanoma can appear as large brownish spots, a mole that changes color or bleeds, irregularly shaped lesions, or dark lesions on your extremities or in areas with mucous membranes, such as inside your nose or mouth.
Skin Cancer Causes and Risk Factors
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is thought to be responsible for most types of squamous cell, basal cell, or other skin cancer because invisible UV rays can cause considerable damage to cell DNA. Though this is the most common cause, cancer can also develop because of exposure to toxins (such as arsenic) or a weakened immune system.
There are a variety of factors that can also contribute to the onset of cancer:
- Fair skin
- A family history of the disease
- A personal history of sunburns
- Too much sun exposure
- Sunny locations
- High-altitude climates
- Precancerous lesions (such as actinic keratosis)
- Radiation exposure
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Once you suspect that a mysterious lesion, spot, or discoloration may signal squamous cell, basal cell, or melanoma skin cancer, contact our medical dermatology practice to schedule an appointment for diagnosing the issue.
Dr. Kitagawa will carefully examine you to determine if the changes are indeed cancerous. If he suspects cancer, he’ll most likely perform a quick, simple biopsy for confirmation via lab testing. If you do have cancer, the biopsy will also determine which kind you have.
A variety of treatment options are available at Kitagawa Dermatology in Hawaii depending on whether you have squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, or melanom and your overall health. Common treatment options include excision, cryotherapy, topical treatments, and electrodesiccation with curettage. Other options include laser surgery and photodynamic therapy but check with Dr. Kitagawa and his experienced staff to find the best treatment option for you.
If any of the above symptoms are similar to the ones you’re experiencing, you should contact a dermatology expert in Honolulu, Hawaii. For more signs and symptoms, please visit WebMD.com.
Protecting yourself is the first step toward early detection. A vast majority of these cancers can be prevented, but you have to self-examine regularly. If you notice an unusual change in a mole, lesion, or growth on the body, contact Dr. Kitagawa and his exceptional staff at Kitagawa Dermatology.
To better protect yourself, here are common, practical tips for prevention:
- Avoid prolonged periods of exposure when the sun is strongest (usually between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).
- Slather on sunscreen of at least 30 SPF on all sun-exposed areas of your body throughout the year.
- Wear protective clothing, such as long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, or wide-brimmed hat that covers your face and neck.
- Don’t use tanning beds due to their emission of UV rays.
- Avoid sun-sensitizing medications, such as some common prescriptions or over-the-counter medications, whose side effects could include rendering you more sun-sensitive and vulnerable.
- Examine your skin regularly and consult Dr. Kitagawa if you see mysterious new growths or changes.
Consult with a Honolulu Dermatology Expert
Don’t be part of the 20% of Americans who will develop skin cancer. Regular self-examinations can help catch cancer early enough to be treated successfully. If you have a history of sunburns or a family history of the disease, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Kitagawa should you discover an anomaly.
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