With early detection and treatment, skin cancer is highly curable. The most common warning signs of skin cancer include changes in size, shape or color of a mole or other skin lesion or the appearance of a new growth on the skin.
Skin Cancer Affects Everyone
No matter your skin color, you can get skin cancer. Some people have a higher risk for skin cancer have:
- Light colored skin
- Skin that burns or freckles rather than tans
- Blond or red hair
- Blue or green eyes
- More than 50 moles
- Irregularly-shaped or darker moles (nevi) called “atypical” or “dysplastic”
- Used (or use) indoor tanning devices such as tanning beds and sunlamps
Your medical history also can increase your risk of getting skin cancer. You have a much greater risk of developing skin cancer if you have:
- History of sunburns, especially blistering sunburns
- Received an organ transplant
- Had skin cancer (or blood relative has/had skin cancer)
- A weakened immune system
- Received long term x-ray therapy, such as x-ray treatments for acne
- Been exposed to cancer-causing compounds such as arsenic or coal
- An area of skin that has been badly burned, either in an accident or by the sun
Types of Skin Cancer
The most common types of skin cancer are:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is the most common type of skin cancer, BCC appears on the skin in many shapes and sizes. You may see a dome-shaped growth with visible blood vessels; a shiny pinkish patch, or a sore that heals, and then returns. BCC usually develops on skin that receives lots of sun, such as the scalp, nose, neck, and hands. BCC rarelyspreads to other areas of the body, but it can grow deep into tissue and bone.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer. SCC appears on the skin in many shapes. You may see a crusted or rought bump; a red, rough flat patch; a dome-shaped bump that grows and bleeds; or a sore that does not heal, or heals and returns. SCC commonly develops on skin that is exposed to sun, such as the face, ears, lips, back of the hands, arms, and legs.
SCC also can develop on areas of the body that are not exposed to sun, such as inside the mouth or on the genitals. Smoking or chewing tobacco may increase the risk of getting SCC in the mouth or throat. Left untreated, SCC can spread to other parts of the body, making treatment difficult.
This is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanoma may develop on normal skin or in an existing mole. A change to the shape, color, or diameter (size) of a mole can be a sign of melanoma. Other changes to watch for include a mole that becomes painful or begins to bleed or itch.
Some melanomas develop on normal skin. A new growth, particularly one that does not match your other moles, could be melanoma.
Melanoma also can develop under fingernails or toenails. This will look like a brown or black streak underneath the nail.
Although melanoma is more common in those with light colored skin, people with skin of color also get melanoma. In skin of color, melanoma usually appears on a palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under a nail, in the mouth, or on the genitals.
- ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection
When melanoma is caught early and treated, the cure rate is nearly 100%. Performing skin self-examinations can help you find skin changes that could be an early melanoma. When looking at your skin for signs of melanoma, it helps to keep in mind the ABCDEs of Melanoma:
A. stands for ASSYMETRY; one half does not look like the other half.
B. stands for BORDER; irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.
C. stands for COLOR; varied from one spot to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red, or blue.
D. DIAMETER melanomas are most often greater than 6 millimeters (the size of a penbcil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.
E. stands for EVOLVING; a mole or skin growth that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.
Make an appointment to see a boards-certified dermatologist as soon as possible if you notice a spot or mole on your skin that has any of these characteristics:
- Fits any of the ABCDEs of Melanoma
- Differs from the other moles and spots on your skin
- Changes, itches, or bleeds, even if the spot is smaller than 6mm
- Actinic Keratoses (AK)
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are common skin growths. AKs are considered precancerous. Left untreated, an AK may turn in to squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Most AKs are dry, scaly, rough-textured spots on the skin. AKs form on skin that receives lots of sun, such as on the headl, including the lips and scalp; arms; and hands. Women frequently get AKs on the backs of their legs. AKs can form, disappear, and then return.
Skin Examinations Can Find Skin Cancers Eearly
There are two types of skin examinations. A skin self-exam involves checking your skin for signs of changes.
Your dermatologist performs the other type of skin exam. How often a patient should see a dermatologist for a skin exam varies from patient to patient. Your dermatologist will tell you how often you should have a skin exam. It is very important that you keep every appointment for a skin exam. ,