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May 15, 2014

Healthy Living looks at skin cancer

May is cancer awareness month in Belize. Worldwide, awareness about skin cancer is also a priority throughout the month.   While it may not be the most prevalent, Belizeans are highly susceptible to skin cancer.  The good news is that it is not only preventable, but it is also treatable, if detected early. Tonight in Healthy Living, I sat down with a dermatologist to discuss early warning signs.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

It is a very common misconception that investing in skin care is more about vanity than health. But the truth is the skin is our largest organ exposed to many elements including one which we who live in this region can rarely avoid.

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja, Dermatologist

“The closer you are to the equator the more UV radiation you will get. We are closer than the states of course. So that means our exposure tends to be higher.”

 

In fact, research tells us that ninety percent of skin cancers are caused by excessive sun exposure.

 

Jorge Lopez Granja

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“Secondly, the fact that we do not educate our patients makes for this cancer to be very likely to appear. For example, if as a child, you get just one blistering sun burn that more than doubles the chances of having melanoma later on in life.  If you add up the NEW cases of lung cancer breast cancer colon cancer prostate cancer and you put them together; skin cancer still has more new cases per year.”

 

There are three common types of skin cancer. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common forms of skin cancer that are less life threatening and easier to treat if diagnosed early and the third most common and serious form of skin cancer is melanoma.

 

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“When we catch melanoma early on, the survival rate is ninety-eight percent when it goes to the lymph nodes it drops to about sixty-two percent and when it involves another organ it goes down to eighteen percent. It’s really deadly it accounts of the most skin cancer deaths. This applies to all forms of skin cancers. It could start as a little lump, if you have about 6 months and suddenly you notice that it bleeds, its gets a curst on it; it has a little sore, changing in color, its growing. All of that should make you go and see your dermatologist.”

 

It doesn’t matter what type of skin cancer you have, early detection improves your chances of treatment; In non-melanoma skin cancers, leaving untreated can still carry very serious consequences.

 

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“To give you an example if you leave basal cell carcinoma on the nose which is a common place; basically all exposed skin, but on the nose for example it can go and destroy the nose and you can be disfigured. There are no clear guidelines for who to screen for skin cancer because statistics tell you between twenty-five to twenty-nine years of age, skin cancer is the most common form of caner for that age group, we know that as we grow older, since sun damage is something cumulative we expect to see it in people of older age. Talking about people forty to forty-five years old, definitely we want to do a skin exam.”

And Dr. Lopez is doing just that. He has scheduled a free skin cancer screening clinic for the public. Here are some symptoms that you should get checked. Its starts with ABC.
Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“For melanoma, not the other skin cancers.  A; asymmetry meaning that one side of your mole is not matching the other side. B; borders are irregular so instead of a short line, you’d have like scalloped borders. C; changes in color, if a mole has different hues, that same mole. That’s a sign.”

 

D is for changes in diameter and E is evolution – if the mole changes in any way, shape color, size, if its bleeds or itch, any changes: you should definitely visit a dermatologist.

 

Dr. Jorge Lopez Granja

“My aim for this free skin cancer is screening is not only to diagnose but also, other types that are not as deadly but I know will make people struggle financially and emotionally if they have it and don’t detect it early.”

 

The free screening clinic takes place, Friday May thirtieth from eight until midday at the Belize Medical associates in Belize City.

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