Skin cancer is a great cause of concern for many people, especially those who are often exposed to largeamounts of sunlight. Skin cancer is a locally destructive cancerous growth of the skin. It starts in the cells that separate the superficial layer of the skin from the deeper layers. There are three different major types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Out of the three, melanoma has the greatest potential for harm.
One of the first things you should look out for is the appearance of any dark spot on the skin that appears asymmetric in shape. To find out if a spot on the skin is potentially cancerous, imagine a line cutting it down the middle.
If one side looks different from the other, the spot is asymmetrical and is, therefore a cause of concern. Not all spots that appear asymmetrical are cancerous, but it is best to consult your doctor or dermatologist to rule out any form of skin cancer. Melanoma will often appear as a mole, and it is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
When looking for symptoms of melanoma, it is good to inspect the border of the mole. If it appears smooth and consistent, there is little chance that the mole is cancerous. If however, it seems irregular or scalloped, the mole may be cancerous and should be checked out by a doctor.
The American Academy of Dermatology uses this method to determine whether a mole poses a risk of cancer.
Moreover, if the mole grows fast, or if one part of the mole grows more than the other, this may also indicate skin cancer.
Besides paying close attention to the shape and regularity of the mole, another important element that should be analyzed is the color. The color of the mole, as well as that of the surrounding, is a good indication if the mole is cancerous.
To determine if a mole may be cancerous look at the amount of coloration on the mole. Is it uniform in color, or is there more the one color present? If the latter is true, then the mole may be cancerous. Sometimes there may be more than three of four different colors.
In ABCDE* rule, the diameter of the mole is one of the key factors. The size of the mole can indicate whether the mole is cancerous. It can also show to which extent cancer has spread. If the mole appears small (under 6 mm in diameter), then it is most likely benign. However if the opposite is true (larger than 6 mm in diameter), then it should be inspected further to rule out skin cancer.
Most cancerous moles are large, meaning that there is a strong relationship between size and risk. If you notice any moles that appear large, consult your doctor or dermatologist.
Last on the ABCDE symptom risk analysis is evolution. Meaning that when looking for potential skin cancer, you should keep in mind the growth of the mole. Also, you should be aware of any recent changes in the size or shape of the mole. Often, people with skin cancer notice that new moles appear, or that already existing moles change shape.
In rare cases, the moles may even disappear. If you notice any unusual changes to any mole on the skin as well as in the surrounding area, contact your doctor.
What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?
Sometimes the existence of a red, scaly patch on the skin may indicate the presence of certain skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma. If you have an itchy spot on the skin that does not go away within a few weeks with the help over the counter treatments, you should consult your doctor. It is easy to confuse this symptom with other skin conditions such as acne or eczema.
Sometimes the spot may not be itchy at all, or it may only itch at times. The spot may also grow or even shrink in size.
Lump that Bleeds
Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common types of skin cancers. The bleeding often does not stop despite applying pressure. It often follows a cycle that the bump will begin to bleed, then it heals and splits open again.
This symptom may also indicate the existence of squamous cell carcinoma, so it is important to get it checked out by the doctor as soon as possible. Once again the bump on the skin may be confused with other conditions such as acne. The principal difference is that bleeding in a regular pimple subsides quickly.
A shiny bump that appears on the skin may be indicative of some forms of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinomas are most likely to cause the appearance of shiny bumps on the skin. If they appear on the face, they may be difficult to see. Usually, they appear pale, pink or red in color.
In some cases, they appear as regular moles. In general, they are often shiny or pearl-like in texture. Another characteristic of these types of bumps is that they bleed easily and are fragile. If you notice any unusual bumps on the skins that look shiny, consult your doctor.
It may be present in different parts of the body but is most likely to affect the face (Especially the forehead, ears, and neck). Usually, the border will be slightly elevated with a crusted indentation in the middle. During cancer, the blood vessel may appear on the surface of the growth.
If you notice any of the warning signs of cancer, you should consult your doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible. A trained professional can tell the difference between a non-cancerous and a cancerous mole.
A Scar-like Spot
One of the more severe signs of skin cancer is the appearance of a scar-like spot on the skin. This spot is especially indicative of an aggressive form of skin cancer, so it is paramount to take action and consult your doctor or dermatologist as soon as possible.
If a scar-like spot appears on the skin, it may be of white or yellow color. It may also be shiny. It may be possible to confuse this symptom with other conditions of the skin, such as a cut or acne.
*ABDCE RULE A-Asymmetry B-Border C-Color D-Diameter E-Evolving
Tips For Preventing Skin Cancer
Yearly almost 5 million people in The United States receive treatment for skin cancer. 90% of skin cancers are directly related to exposure to the sun. Solar rays and tanning beds also cause skin cancer. Fortunately, skin cancer is preventable. Protection should start at a young age. If you are planning an outdoor activity, it is very important to take precautions to stay protected.
Forms of protection against UV include:
Stay out of the sun between 9:00 – 16:00. These are the times when UV rays are their strongest. It is important to have caution with surfaces that reflect sun rays such as snow, water, and pavement.
Clothes and Accessories
The use of sunglasses, hats, and umbrellas can be effective ways to protect your eyes, face, and body. A broad-brimmed hat and wraparound sunglasses protect the often exposed skin around the eyes, ears, face, and neck. Generally, light colored fabrics do not offer much protection from the sun. A white t-shirt provides an average SPF of 7 while a long sleeved thick denim shirt has an SPF of 1700.
The easiest way to teach how well clothing can protect your skin is to hold it up to the light. If you can see through the fabric UV radiation can penetrate it and reach your skin.
If possible, the use of long-sleeved shirts and pants or long skirts are additional ways to protect your skin. Try to stay in shaded areas.
The sun has two types of ultraviolet radiation UVA and UVB. UVB rays are the culprit behind sunburn while UVA rays which penetrate more deeply or associated with long-term changes like wrinkling. For the best protection pick a sunscreen that blocks both types of ultraviolet rays. Get the most out of your sunscreen by choosing one with a sun protection factor or SPF of 30 or higher.
An SPF of 15 blocks 93% of the sun’s rays while an SPF of 50 stops 99%. Selecting the right sunscreen is only the first step to get the full SPF. You must apply enough of it. Use one ounce of sunscreen or a shot glass full.
Most people apply half that which means the actual SPF on the body is lower than advertised. Apply sunscreen correctly cover your entire body 30 minutes before going outdoors even during cloudy weather. Reapply every 2 hours.
Be aware of your family’s medical history. If your sibling, parent or child has had melanoma you are in a melanoma-prone family and are 50% more likely to develop the disease. Getting checked regularly by a dermatologist is especially important for you. Engaging in these behaviors can help fend off the harmful effects of the sun’s rays and reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.