In this interview, Dr. Speron talked about skin cancer:


Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.  More than 500,000 new cases are reported each year – and the incidence is rising faster than any other type of cancer.  Most people also have no idea that 80% of our lifetime sun exposure and risk of getting skin cancer occurs before the age of 18!

The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation - most often from the sun, but also from artificial sources like sunlamps and tanning booths. In fact, researchers believe that our quest for the perfect tan, an increase in outdoor activities, and perhaps the thinning of the earth's protective ozone layer are behind the alarming rise we're now seeing in skin cancers.

Anyone can get skin cancer - no matter what your skin type, race or age, no matter where you live or what you do. But your risk is greater if...

- Your skin is fair and freckles easily.

- You have light-colored hair and eyes.

- You have a large number of moles, or moles of unusual size or shape.

- You have a family history of skin cancer or a personal history of blistering sunburn.

- You spend a lot of time working or playing outdoors.

- You live closer to the equator, at a higher altitude, or in any place that gets intense, year-round sunshine.

- You received therapeutic radiation treatments for adolescent acne.

That’s really all there is to it.


Okay, by now you probably have a few questions.  Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I get:



     Q.   Is sun exposure the main cause of skin cancer?

A.  Yes. Mutations will inevitably be induced by UV radiation, which you get from sun exposure.  A proportion of the mutations will start the long winding path towards skin cancer. 


Q.  What are the three main forms of skin cancer?

A.  Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma and Melanoma.


     Q.  What are the early warning signs (ABCD's)?


  • A - Asymmetry (common moles are round and symmetrical)

  • B - Border (skin cancers may have uneven borders)

  • C - Color (watch for varied shades of brown, tan or black and also red, white, and blue)

  • D - Diameter (if a spot is larger than a pencil eraser (6mm or ¼" diameter) it could be trouble)


Q.  What do skin cancers look like?

A.  Skin cancer takes many forms. Anything that changes, grows or fits any of the ABCD's should be taken seriously. A doctor should examine anything suspicious.


Q.  How can I tell if a skin cancer is developing?

     A.  There can be many signs including: a change in a mole, a sore that does not heal, a skin growth that increases in size, and a spot that continues to itch, hurt, scab.


     Q.  How do I perform a total body skin examination?

     A.  Check your body thoroughly at least every three months or every month if you are high risk. Look for any changes. See a doctor right away if you notice anything suspicious.  Feel free to use the following self-exam:

How to Spot Skin Cancer

If You Can Spot It, You Can Stop It!

Coupled with a yearly skin exam by a doctor, self-examination of your skin at least every three months (or every month if you are high risk) is the best way to detect the early warning signs of skin cancer. Look for a new growth or any skin change.


What you'll need: a bright light; a full-length mirror; a hand mirror; two chairs or stools; a blow dryer.

Examine head and face, using one or both mirrors. Use blow dryer to inspect scalp.

Check hands, including nails. In full-length mirror, examine elbows, arms & underarms.

Focus on neck, chest & torso. Women: Check under breasts.

With back to the mirror, use hand mirror to inspect back of neck, shoulders, upper arms, back, buttocks & legs.

Sitting down, check legs and feet, including soles, heels & nails. Use hand mirror to examine genitals.



Q.  Who is most at risk?

     A.  People who always burn, never tan, and are fair with red or blonde hair, green or blue eyes and freckles have a greater chance of developing skin cancer.


Q.  Do sunscreens prevent skin cancer?

     A.  Studies have shown that using sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer.


Q.  How should I use a sunscreen?

     A.  Apply it in advance. Apply enough. Reapply frequently. Use broad-spectrum products with a high-SPF. Don't rely on sunscreen alone.  Use a hat, common sense etc.


     Q.  What does SPF mean?

     A.  Sun Protection Factor (SPF) measures the length of time a product protects against skin reddening from UVB, compared to how long the skin takes to redden without protection. 


     Q.  Can children get skin cancer?

     A.  Sure.  Skin cancer is uncommon in children. However, damage that later results in skin cancer is accumulated in childhood.  The first 18 years of life account for 80% of sun damage to your skin.


Q.  Are sunscreens suitable for infants and children?

     A.  Sunscreens may be used on babies starting at six months of age. But applying a sunscreen should not be an excuse for keeping a child out in the sun too long.


     Q.  At what time of day is the sun most dangerous?

     A.  The sun is most dangerous between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


     Q.  Does clothing provide good sun protection?

     A.  Dressing for sun protection is still one of the best ways to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Look for a tight weave, loose fit, and darker colors for more protection.


Q.  Why are sunglasses important?

     A.  UV absorption by the eye and surrounding tissues is an important factor in causing both benign and malignant growths on the eyelid skin and on the surface of the eye. 


     Q.  Does skin cancer run in families?

     A.  Heredity plays a major role in melanoma risk. About one of every ten patients diagnosed has a family member with a history of the disease.


     Q.  Are tanning parlors safer than the sun?

     A.  Exposure to the radiation of a tanning booth may be more risky than exposure to the sun.


Q.  What are "UVB" and "UVA"?

     A.  UVA = long-wave solar rays of 320 - 400 nanometers. UVB = short-wave solar rays of 290 - 320 nanometers.


Q.  Will sun exposure also make me look older than I really am?

     A.  Yes!! Sun effects can be seen by comparing the skin on the face and backs of the hands with the skin on a part of the body that is seldom exposed, such as under the arms.


Q.  How is a skin cancer diagnosed?

     A.  Every diagnosis begins with a thorough examination of the skin growth or lesion under a bright light. A biopsy may be taken. This is the most accurate diagnostic test.


Q.  Can skin cancer be cured?

     A.  Almost all skin cancer that is diagnosed early and treated promptly and appropriately can be cured.


Q.  How is skin cancer treated?

     A.  Skin cancer may be removed by one of several methods including excisional surgery, curettage-electrodesiccation, cryosurgery, radiation therapy, topical chemotherapy or by Mohs micrographic surgery.


Q.  Can skin cancer recur?

     A.   Absolutely, so regular follow-up and self-examination is extremely important.  50% of all people who get basal cell cancer get another one within 5 years!


Q.  Can ultraviolet rays penetrate car windows?

     A.  Windows and windshields somewhat reduce exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation. Only the windshield is partially treated against ultraviolet A (UVA).
So, consider use of a UV-protective window film on vehicles.


     Q.  How can I get more information on skin cancer?

     A.  Feel free to call my office at 1-847-696-9900 and schedule a consultation with me - Dr. Speron.  I will go over your options with you after a comprehensive history and physical examination.  You can also email me through our web site at