SKIN CANCER is the most common type of cancer. Between 2 to 3 million people all around the world are diagnosed each year with skin cancer.
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.
No matter what your skin color is, you can get skin cancer. Some people have a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others. Whereas age is a key risk factor, but there are many other risk factors as well.
People with a higher risk for skin cancer have:
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
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 rarely spreads to other areas of the body, but it can grow deep into tissue and bone.
SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer. SCC appears on the skin in many shapes. You may see a crusted or rough 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 the 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 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 the 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 be developed 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 tone, people with skin of color can also get melanoma. In such cases the melanoma usually appears on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under the nail, in the mouth, or in 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 ASYMMETRY; 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 stands for DIAMETER; melanomas are most often greater than 6 millimeters (the size of a pencil 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 board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible if you notice a spot or mole on your skin that has any of these characteristics:
Actinic keratoses (AKs) are common skin growths. AKs are considered precancerous and if left untreated, an AK may turn into squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
Most AKs are dry, scaly, rough-textured spots on the skin. AKs form on skin that receives lots of the sun, such as one head, 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.
The skin self-examination can help you find skin cancer early when treatment can cure the cancer. If you notice anything that growing, changing or bleeding, immediately make an appointment to see your dermatologist.
Caught early and properly treated, skin cancer can be cured. Even melanoma, which can be deadly, has a cure rate of almost 100% when treated early.
Proper treatment begins with the right diagnosis. To diagnose skin cancer, a dermatologist performs a skin biopsy. This is the best way to diagnose skin cancer. Your dermatologist can perform a biopsy during clinical visit.
To perform a biopsy, your dermatologist will remove either the entire skin growth or part of it. The removed skin will be sent to a lab where it will be examined under a microscope.
If the diagnosis is skin cancer, your dermatologist will consider the type of skin cancer, the size and its location, and your health, in order to determine the best treatment for you. When caught early and the entire growth is removed, further treatment may not be needed, your dermatologist will discuss your treatment options and make recommendations accordingly.
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, including melanoma. The following can help you detect and prevent new skin cancers.
Protecting your family and friends. Make sure children are protected from excessive sun exposure.