With around 400 cases of skin cancer diagnosed in Qatar between 2010 and 2015, cancer experts at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) are advising the public that simple precautions can lower their risk of contracting skin cancer.
Dr. Mohamed Ussama Al Homsi, Oncology Senior Consultant, said skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, with one million people in the United States diagnosed each year with some form of the disease.
According to him, those at greatest risk of developing skin cancer are individuals with fair skin and those with specific genetic disorders that deplete skin pigment, such as albinism. Dr. Al Homsi says that limiting sun exposure, conducting regular skin self-examinations, and having check-ups with a healthcare provider are important factors in reducing one’s risk of developing skin cancer.
“Skin self-examinations should be conducted monthly to improve one’s chance of finding a skin cancer early when it has caused minimum damage to the skin and can be treated easily. The best time to conduct a self-exam is immediately after showering or bathing and while standing in front of a full-length mirror and using a hand-held mirror,” he suggests.
“If you notice any changes to the size, shape, color, or texture of your skin, it is important to seek medical advice as these could be signs of skin cancer,” Dr. Al Homsi stresses.
Dr. Ahmad Hazem Takiddin, HMC Clinical Lead of Dermatology Cancer added: “There are three major types of skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.”
The majority of diagnosed skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. While these cancers are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, they can be disfiguring if not treated early. Conversely, the less commonly diagnosed malignant melanoma is highly aggressive and tends to spread to other parts of the body.
“A small but significant number of skin cancers are malignant melanomas. Malignant melanoma is a highly aggressive cancer that tends to spread to other parts of the body. These cancers may be fatal if not treated early,” noted Dr. Takiddin.
Simple behaviors, such as regularly applying broad-spectrum sunscreen, wearing protective clothing and hats, and avoiding the outdoors during the sun’s peak hours (between 10am and 2pm), can go a long way toward reducing your risk of developing skin cancer. Experts also warn against the use of artificial tanning booths as evidence suggests that indoor tanning booths can increase one’s risk of developing melanoma.
HMC’s Department of Dermatology and Venereology provides dermatology health services to patients with all skin conditions, including skin cancers, immune and allergic processes, diseases of other organ systems with skin manifestations, and skin infections. Patients who wish to be seen as dermatology outpatients can obtain a referral or call HMC Nesma’ak team on 16060 to book an appointment.