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US First Lady Laura Bush Treated for Squamous Cell Carcinoma

First lady Laura Bush had a skin cancer tumor surgically removed from her leg in early November. The type of cancer she had was squamous cell carcinoma, the second-most common type of skin cancer. Mrs. Bush is just one of the 1.3 million Americans who will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year.

The Skin Cancer Foundation says skin cancer is now occurring at epidemic levels around the world. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

First Lady Laura Bush was spotted recently with a bandage on her right leg. Her spokewoman said Mrs. Bush had a squamous cell carcinoma removed in November. Squamous cell carcinoma is a tumor that affects the middle layer of the skin.

This type of cancer is not usually fatal. Dr. Gary Monheit is with the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. "It's curable because we can detect it early, we can find it, and early on, it can be cured. It is one of the most curable of all malignancies."

The Skin Cancer Foundation says skin cancer is reaching epidemic proportions around the world.

More Americans will be diagnosed this year with skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

There are three main types of skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and malignant melanoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma is rough and reddish and is found on parts of the body that have been exposed to the sun. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It is much darker than the squamous cell type.

Malignant melanoma is the third most common form of skin cancer... and the deadliest. It accounts for up to 80 percent of all skin cancer deaths. Malignant melanoma is darker than the other two, and is black in its appearance. Skin cancer comes from overexposure to the sun's ultra violet rays.

Dr. Monheit says people should check their skin on a monthly basis. "It's so important, that periodically, every individual makes a map of the skin, notices what kind of skin growths are present. Everybody has them. But it's change. And the recognition of new growths that will occur that will tell if something's abnormal."

Dermatologists say people should look for growths that are asymmetrical, have uneven borders or change in color. Their doctors should also check their scalps for skin cancer. Laura Bush's diagnosis and treatment means it is unlikely she will get cancer in the same spot. But it puts her at a higher risk for getting a second skin cancer.

Mrs. Bush's fair skin and light colored eyes also mean she has a higher risk of developing skin cancer than someone with darker skin. But even people with dark skin can get skin cancer.

Dermatologists recommend people use sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 15 and use it year round. They also recommend limiting exposure to ultra-violet rays.

Video courtesy of Olay