Americans today recognize acronyms and abbreviations for a wide range of important medical terms: ED is short for “Erectile Dysfunction,” OCD is an abbreviation for “Obsessive Compulsive Disorder,” UTI stands for “Urinary Tract Infection,” and OIC stands for “Opioid Induced Constipation,” just to name a few.
However, most people are not familiar with one acronym that could help save millions of lives: CPS. CPS stands for Cancer Prone Skin. Skin cancer is the most common cancer, with over two million Americans diagnosed with skin cancer each year.
- One American dies of skin cancer every hour.
- Almost 10,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- The survival rate for melanoma that is detected early is over 98 percent.
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
It is imperative that we make a household term the primary aid in identifying skin that is most at risk. No matter your skin color, you can get skin cancer. Some people have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others, placing them in the CPS category.
CPS typically includes several or more of the following risk factors:
- Light-colored skin
- Skin that burns or freckles rather than tans
- Blond or red hair
- Blue or green eyes
- More than 50 moles
- Irregularly shaped or darker moles
- Use or used indoor tanning devices
- History of sun exposure from outdoor activities
- Family member with a history of melanoma or other skin cancer
Skin cancer is most commonly caused by extended ultraviolet light exposure and genetics. These people have Cancer Prone Skin, or CPS.
Additional CPS risk comes from extended sun exposure such as people get who spend a lot of time outdoors, like lifeguards, roofers, or anyone with a job or activity that involves extended hours in sunlight. Also, people who have experienced multiple chronic blistering sunburns are at increased risk.
Other factors that can cause skin cancer include certain genetic disorders, exposure to toxins (including cigarette smoke), radiation therapy, or immune deficiencies.
With early detection and treatment, skin cancer is highly curable. The most common warning signs of skin cancer include changes in size, shape or color of a mole or other skin lesion or the appearance of a new growth on the skin. If you have any lesion or mole change at all, or if you have a spot that bleeds and doesn’t heal in three weeks, see a dermatologist. That’s something everyone can do.
The ABCDE’s of skin cancer detection
Here are some signs to look for when examining changing moles. If you notice any of these, be sure to contact your doctor/dermatologist.
A = Asymmetry: One half of the mole is unlike the other half.
B = Border: Mole has an irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C = Color: Mole is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.
D = Diameter: Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E = Evolving: A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest, is changing in size, shape or color, or is becoming thicker, or “Elevating.”
Also, remember that skin color doesn’t give you a free pass. It doesn’t matter what color your skin is; everyone can get skin cancer. In fact, melanoma skin cancer in African Americans that occurs on the palms and soles can be the most serious and challenging to treat. The musician Bob Marley died from acral melanoma of his foot.
A person with any of the CPS risk factors should not panic, but they should begin a lifelong routine of visiting their board-certified dermatologist for a regular skin check. Dermatology has made incredible advances in identifying risks and early diagnoses. For patients with CPS, routine monitoring is the best means to early detection of skin cancer, leading to a great prognosis for successful treatment.
Remember, CPS stands for “Cancer Prone Skin.” Be sure to schedule a regular skin examination with your dermatologist. Based on your personal and family history, the dermatologist will recommend a regular exam schedule that is best for you.
Reference: American Academy of Dermatology
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the United States by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians, MABP.org.