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.
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Please don’t frighten us out of the sunlight! I am a blue-eyed 74-year-old Caucasian who has been sunbathing most of my life. I also am a sunlight researcher, use sunbeds (tanning beds) and have one in my home. I have never had a common skin cancer or a melanoma. The key to safe sun exposure is leaving the sun when you start to redden or you feel hot. Or, you can cover up or seek the shade. Sun exposure is vital to human health. Here are some facts about sun exposure that you should know:
• Much of the world is now vitamin D deficient, and for every death caused by diseases that are associated with sun exposure, there are about 328 deaths caused by diseases that are associated with sun deprivation. In the U.S, sun exposure has decreased by 90% since 1935. During that time the risk of melanoma has increased by 3,000%. Isn’t it interesting that each year the use of sunscreen increases, and each year the risk of contracting melanoma increases? It is not sun exposure that causes health problems; it is sun deprivation. And, it is leading to 336,000 deaths yearly in the U.S. There has also been an 8,300% increase in vitamin D deficiency in children since 2000, which is likely due to insufficient time playing outdoors and/or sunscreen use. So you see, all of this “protection” may be fatal. In addition, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has just released information that 73% of sunscreens don’t work and some may be counterproductive. A 20-year Swedish study demonstrated a 23% reduced risk of all-cause death among those women who used sunbeds (tanning beds).
• Overall, women who actively seek the sun have half the risk of death compared with those who avoid the sun.
•A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as those who avoid sun.
•Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
•Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
•Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors.
•Sun exposure increases nitric oxide production, which leads to a decrease in heart disease risk.
•Sun exposure dramatically improves mood through the production of serotonin and endorphin.
Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, essential to a properly functioning nervous system.
For more information: Sunlight Institute website: http://sunlightinstitute.org/