This is SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English.
FAITH LAPIDUS: And I’m Faith Lapidus. Today, we will tell about skin cancer.
DOUG JOHNSON: Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer. It is also the most deadly. America’s National Cancer Institute reports that more than one million people in the United States developed skin cancer last year. Skin cancer is one of the easiest cancers to cure if found and treated early. When left untreated, however, it can lead to changes in a person’s physical appearance and even death.
Skin cancer can affect anyone at any age. Former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all received treatment for skin cancer or pre-cancerous lesions. Doctors also treated Elizabeth Taylor, Cybill Shepherd and Melanie Griffith for skin cancer or early signs of it. All three performers survived.
Not everyone is so lucky. Musician Bob Marley died in nineteen eighty-one after melanoma spread in his body. Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The main cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Light and heat from the sun can change chemicals in the skin. Ultraviolet, also called U-V, rays cause the skin to burn. Over time, cancer could develop.
Anyone can get skin cancer. People with light-colored skin, hair or eyes are at greatest risk. A history of sunburn early in life also increases the risk. So does a family history of skin cancer.
Tanning beds can also produce high levels of U-V radiation. Many Americans think they look better when their skin is brown in color. They spend time in tanning beds in hopes to making their skin darker.
DOUG JOHNSON: The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. They can develop as flat, discolored areas of skin or as raised growths, often with a rough surface.
Melanoma is far more dangerous. Melanomas can appear even in areas
of skin that do not get a lot of sun. Malignant melanoma begins in body cells that produce a brown color. It usually first grows in a mole, a small dark area of skin.
Melanoma often looks like a dark area with an unusual shape. It can be flat or raised. Other warning signs are a change in skin color and uneven borders around a mole.
The majority of people with melanoma are white men over the age of fifty. Without early treatment, this kind of cancer can spread quickly. Each year, more than sixty-eight thousand people in the United States learn they have melanoma. The National Cancer Institute estimates that eight thousand six hundred fifty Americans died because of melanoma last year.
FAITH LAPIDUS: The sooner skin cancer is found, the easier it is to treat. That is why doctors advise people to perform monthly exams of all areas of skin, from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet.
It is important to know early warning signs so that cancerous growths are found before they spread. The signs include a skin growth that changes in size, color, thickness or texture. Exams with a trained medical worker are also important. See a doctor if a mole bleeds, is bigger than six millimeters or you feel like rubbing it. If one or more of the warning signs are present, a doctor should examine you immediately.
Knowing what your skin looks like will help you recognize any changes. Some experts suggest taking pictures of moles and dating the images to compare over time.
DOUG JOHNSON: Treatment of skin cancer depends on the kind, size, position on the body and depth of the growth, or tumor.