Go to Health! (Because Life's Too Short)

Issue #24 April 14, 1998

About the Author:

Shara Rendell-Smock, author

Shara Rendell-Smock has written more than twenty computer software manuals, numerous newspaper articles, including a monthly health column for The Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

She's the author of two books of non-fiction: Getting Hooked: Fiction's Opening Sentences 1950's- 1990's
Living With Big Cats: The Story of Jungle Larry, Safari Jane, and David Tetzlaff
For ordering information, click here.

To read more about these books, participate in an ongoing joke contest, surf on over to
www.rendell-smock.com .
The author currently lives on Florida's Space Coast.

Shara signed with a New York Literary agency in December.

Cancer: Awareness is Halfway to Prevention

Part 2 of 5

Skin Cancer

At least half a million new cases of basal cell, squamous cell, and melanoma skin cancer are reported annually. Exposure to sunlight is the predominant cause of skin cancer. Sun damage to skin cannot be reversed.

Some skin spots are not skin cancer, but can become malignant if untreated. These rough, scaly spots, called actinic keratoses, are caused by prolonged exposure to sun. A dermatologist can remove these spots, allowing the undamaged layers of skin to surface.

Children's skin is more sensitive than that of an adult. Children also spend more time outdoors. It's important to teach them early to use sunscreen and hats. Medical studies indicate that up to 80% of skin damage occurs before age 18.

Cumulative sun damage is especially detrimental to health. Using a sunscreen of SPF 15 or greater would be a good habit to develop.

Annually, most dermatologists discover an average of twenty to thirty new cases of melanoma on people who visited the doctor for other reasons, such as rashes.

Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinoma

One in eight Americans develop the most common skin cancer, basal cell. Although anyone can develop basal cell or squamous cell cancer, those with fair skin, and blonde or red hair and eyes--those who sunburn easily--are at greatest risk. If you have had one occurrence of basal cell, your chances of recurrence increase.

This cancer rarely spreads to vital organs, but it can metastasize below the skin to bone, or it can destroy surrounding tissue, possibly resulting in the loss of an eye, ear, or the nose.

The second most common skin cancer is squamous cell, nearly always limited to light-skinned people. Typically this cancer occurs on the edge of the ear, the lips, and mouth. It will increase in size if untreated. Unlike basal cell, this cancer can metastasize to organs.


Our dark pigment, melanin, triggers suntan as a partial protection against the sun. Melanoma cells, however, produce spots of melanin. This cancer may appear suddenly or begin as a mole.

Melanoma is the deadliest skin cancer. It has increased 1,800 percent since 1930. Its mortality rate was 34% from 1973 to 1992. Although the incidence rate continues to rise, the death rate is declining because people are seeking help earlier. However, a patient is at high risk for recurrence if the primary melanoma was 4mm or greater, or if the disease has spread to regional nodes.

New treatment techniques include sentinel node biopsy, which allows physicians to map out the lymphatic drainage sites, targeting the first node the cancer would drain to. This takes the guess work out of where to next look for melanoma developing in a patient. Physicians can then determine how aggressively to treat the melanoma.

High-dosage interferon alga-2b is another new treatment, one that augments our immune response to melanoma. This drug, given for one year, significantly delays cancer's effects.

Unlike basal cell and squamous cell, heredity may be a factor in this cancer. Certain moles that run in families may indicate the person is at a higher risk of developing melanoma. Also differing from other skin cancers, melanoma may develop in brown or black-skinned people.

Next Week:

Early detection of skin cancer, prevention and treatment.

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Explore The New Sideroad

Part of the original Sideroad. Text © 1998, Shara Rendell-Smock. Posted on April 14, 1998. The new Sideroad is now receiving traffic at www.sideroad.com.

Shara's books can be ordered from her web site at www.rendell-smock.com