• Client Watch: Inspecting for Suspicious Lesions

    Sadly, in Australia we have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. This is not surprising considering our climate. However we are not alone – more than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year and on average, one American dies from melanoma every hour. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) expects 1 in 5 Americans will contract skin cancer in his or her lifetime. These are certainly scary stats!

    As professional skin therapists, we not only have the skill set to understand skin, we also have a tremendous responsibility to care for the health and wellness of our clients. This includes sharing any observations we make with regard to manifestations and irregularities on their skin. It is of course not for us to diagnose, but we can advise them to seek medical attention. We can therefore be of great assistance with the early detection of any cancerous lesions or other skin disorders.

    The three main types of cancer we need to be on the lookout for during skin analysis are:

    Basal Cell Carcinoma: Pearly nodule or flat red lesion that may or may not have telangiectasia. It increases in size slowly and may form an ulceration in its center. It may also pigment. Keep an eye out for these on sun exposed skin, remembering your client may not notice this lesion as it does not itch or hurt.

    Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Small wart-like growth or a smooth waxy lump with poorly defined edges. They often appear on areas that have been burned such as the tip of the nose, forehead, lower lip, and hands. A tell tail sign is that the lesion persists and does not heal. It may also bleed.

    Melanoma: The most dangerous form of skin cancer and requires early diagnosis for successful treatment. Keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious, irregularly-shaped, raised, colored, mole-like lesions.

    Question your clients about the history of their lesions. Have they noticed them? If so, for how long has the lesion been present? Upon any indication of irregularity, recommend your clients visit a dermatologist as soon as possible.

    Make a note on your consultation card to re-check this lesion on your clients’ return. If it’s still present and the client has not had it checked, remember to encourage her or him to do so, you may just be saving their life!

    The latest research seems promising for the early detection. A new discovery by scientists at the Department of Dermatology at the University of Cincinnati has identified a pigmentation gene called the melanocortin 1 receptor, or MC1R. When this gene doesn’t function properly, skin cells don’t respond to the hormone α-MSH, which causes cells to produce melanin. This discovery may lead to new tests that can assess personal skin cancer risk and open the doors to a new generation of sunscreens.

    And if your clients are worried about the “scaremongering” with relation to the use of sunscreens, The Science Daily (May 15,2012) reports that A.A.D. has recently reiterated the safety and effectiveness of sunscreens to protect against the damaging effects from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. “Scientific evidence supports the benefits of sunscreen usage to minimize short- and long-term damage to the skin from UV radiation and outweighs any unproven claims of toxicity or human health hazard,” said Daniel M. Siegel, MD, FAAD, president of the Academy.

    For extra peace of mind, the FDA announced this month that new sunscreen regulations that clearly define the testing required to make a broad-spectrum protection claim can reduce skin cancer risk.

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