Early Detection of Skin Cancer

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Early Signs of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer found in the United States. The incidence of skin cancer has increased significantly in recent years among both men and women in the US. Although there are different types of skin cancer, the most deadly is known as malignant melanoma. In 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 65,647 people in the United States were diagnosed with melanoma of the skin and 9,128 people in the United States died from this disease. In addition to prevention strategies, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends routine self-examination for potentially dangerous skin lesions.

Prevention is important

The most preventable cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet light exposure, from sun and artificial sources like tanning beds. Ultraviolet rays cause sunburn, changes in skin texture, premature aging, and cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer. You can take steps to reduce your risk of skin cancer by using sunscreen with a high SPF and by avoiding prolonged exposure to intense sunlight.

Do you have an increased risk of skin cancer?

People with lighter skin color, freckling, skin that easily becomes red or sunburned, and people with blond or red hair are all at higher risk for skin cancer. A family history of skin cancer or a history of sunburns are associated with increased risk. The presence of more than fifty moles or moles that are unusual in appearance are associated with increased risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer can occur in people without risk factors

Even if you don’t have one of these risk factors, you should still be vigilant. Anyone can develop skin cancer. If caught early, skin cancer can be treated successfully, but if it progresses without treatment, it can result in death or disfigurement.

The most common sign of skin cancer is skin change

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change in the skin, like a growth or a change in the appearance of a mole. Sometimes, a sore that doesn’t heal may be a developing skin cancer lesion. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends monthly head to toe self-examination of the skin to look for new or changing lesions that may be precancerous or cancerous. Any unusual or concerning lesions should be evaluated by your dermatologist.

Melanoma is one of the most deadly skin cancers

Early detection and recognition of melanoma can save your life. When you are examining your skin for possible cancers, look out for lesions with the “A, B, C, D, E” characteristics associated with malignant melanoma.

Asymmetrical: Do you have a mole or spot with an irregular shape that has differences between the two sides of the lesion?
Border: A mole or lesion with a jagged or irregular border may indicate a possible melanoma.
Color: Uneven color may indicate a cancerous skin lesion.
Diameter: In general, if your mole or skin lesion is larger than the size of a pencil eraser or a pea, you should see a dermatologist for evaluation.
Evolving: Has the lesion changed during the past few weeks or months? If so, have it evaluated by a dermatologist.

Other skin lesions that need evaluation include sores that continue to hurt, crust, itch, scab, erode, or bleed and open sores that don’t heal within 3 weeks.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Many Americans – an estimated 58 million adults – have potentially precancerous lesions known as actinic keratoses, which are crusty or scaly spots that usually appear on areas of the body exposed to the sun. Up to ten percent of these lesions develop into squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma usually occurs in areas exposed to sunlight.

Although squamous cell carcinoma usually develops in areas of sun exposure, these lesions can appear anywhere on the body, including the lips or genitals. Squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a scaly red patch of skin, an elevated growth, a wart, or an open sore. If these cancerous lesions grow undetected, they can spread and are sometimes deadly.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer.

These lesions rarely spread beyond the original site and they’re not life threatening in most cases. If undetected and allowed to spread, a basal cell carcinoma can result in disfigurement. These growths look like red or pink patches, shiny bumps, or open sores. They may appear waxy white or yellow, with a larger cancerous lesion hidden beneath the surface of the skin.

Monthly self-examination should be part of your routine.

Monthly self-examination for skin changes can easily be done after a shower or bath. If you get into the habit of examining your skin, you will more easily recognize changes that should be evaluated by a dermatologist. We are trained in diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the skin, including skin cancers, so if you have noticed an unusual lesion, call us today to schedule a consultation. Early detection and treatment of skin cancer improves outcomes and can prevent untimely death.

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