Skin Cancer Screening

The goal of skin cancer screening is the early recognition of malignant changes in the skin. When recognized early, malignant skin tumors, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma are not life-threatening! As long as the malignant cells are confined to the upper layers of the skin, these tumors can be completely excised and cured. Thus, the transition to an invasive tumor, which is potentially dangerous, cannot occur. Everyone should be examined periodically by a dermatologist; it is the easiest way to avoid trouble with skin cancers. In addition, a monthly self-examination from the scalp to the soles using a mirror and ideally with the help of a partner is also valuable. You, and also your partner, know your skin best! If you notice changes in a mole or other new or rough spots, then it is wise to show them to a dermatologist.

ABCD rule

A self-examination is useful about once a month, from head to toe, possibly with the help of a mirror or together with your partner. You or your partner know your body best! If you notice individual skin regions or a change in moles, please have them clarified by a doctor. Pigmented birthmarks are conspicuous if they have changed in shape, color or size.

Asymmetry: irregular, non-symmetrical shape

Boundary: outgoing pigmentation, irregular at the edge

Color: light and dark spots, different colors

Diameter: bigger than 2mm

Risk factors

The highest risk factor for the development of malignant melanoma is the number of pigmentary moles acquired after birth. With more than 40 pigmented moles, the risk is increased by a factor of 7-15. Sunburns in childhood and adolescence increase the risk of skin cancer by a factor of two to three. People with fair skin (skin types 1 and 2), with reddish or blond hair, with a tendency to freckles, sunburn spots or a family history of malignant melanoma may have up to a 120-fold increased risk of developing malignant melanoma themselves. Sun protection is therefore a very important issue in the prevention of skin cancer. The main reasons for the increase in skin cancer cases are a change in leisure time behavior, extended sun vacations all around the year and the frequent use of solariums. The motto must be: avoid sunburn!

Protective measures

Change your attitude about sun exposure!
Long stays in the sun and sunburns should not be an expected part of your recreational and vacation activities. Unfortunately, a good tan is still considered attractive and a sign of good health. Each of us is attractive in our own way – with our skin type, color and tan. „A good sunburn followed by a good tan“ is no good strategy. Every sunburn is an injury which leaves behind damaged tissue.

Change your daily habits!
Avoid the more intensive sun rays from 11 AM to 3 PM. In the shadows, such as under an umbrella, awning or tree, your UV exposure is reduced by 50%. Nonetheless, the reflection of light, especially from water, sand or snow, means that shadows are by no means totally protective!

Wear protective clothes!
Wearing a broad-brimmed hat provides shadows and thus protection for the eyes, nose, ears and neck. Sunglasses with 100 % UVA und UVB protection reduce the risk of eye damage. Today one could say: „Don’t take your clothes off in the sun; put them on.” The garments should be long-sleeved, tightly woven and loose. Many companies manufacture special sun protective clothing which is attractive and provides guaranteed protection.

Use sunscreens!
Apply a water-resistant sunscreen with a skin protection factor (SPF) of 50 to all exposed areas 30 minutes before going out in the sun. The average adult needs around 40 ml of sunscreen to cover their entire body; the tendency is to apply far too little sunscreen. Even when using a water-resistant sunscreen, it is wise to re-apply it after bathing. Some high-risk areas require extra protection, as they are most exposed: bald scalp or area exposed by part, bridge of nose, eyelids, upper part of cheeks, ears, lips, shoulders, décolleté and even the backs of hands and feet. Try to keep these areas covered or consider using a sunscreen with an SPF of 50.
Remember: sunscreens protect against sunburn, but not against skin cancers! For that reason, you should use sunscreens to protect areas you cannot cover with clothing, not to make it possible for you to stay out in the sun for much longer periods of time!

Avoid tanning parlors!
The additional UV exposure using sunbeds in tanning parlors is definitely not recommended, especially not as a preparation for a vacation in the sun.

Skin cancer

Skin cancers are worldwide the most common human malignancies. In Europe, around one of 10 individuals develops a skin cancer by the age of 75 years. The risk increases with advancing years. The main factor behind the dramatic increase in skin cancers is the change in recreational activities coupled with a dramatic increase in exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of sunlight. The best-known and most-feared skin cancer among the public is melanoma, known colloquially as „black skin cancer“. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more common but less well-known. Together these tumors are referred to as non-melanocytic skin cancers, or „white skin cancers“. They are closely related to total UV exposure during lifetime and the risk increases with age. Advice on how to avoid having trouble with a skin cancer is discussed under Skin Cancer Screening. Superficial tumors that only involve the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, and have not broken through the basal membrane, are designated „in situ“ carcinomas or melanomas. Over time these tumors can invade deeper layers of the skin – if they are untreated -, and can even cause metastases, spreading to local lymph nodes in rare cases. Therefore it is absolutely essential to treat skin cancers in their earliest stage. The early diagnosis and treatment of skin cancers lead to an almost 100% cure rate.