Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States; it is easily treatable and highly beatable is caught in the early stages. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and the least likely to spread to other parts of the body. Squamous cell carcinomas are less common and show up on skin areas that are frequently exposed to cancer. Melanoma is the rarest and the most dangerous – it spreads. For more information about the various types of skin cancer, read more here.
Vigilance in self-checks is the key to early detection. Just like with every version of cancer, catching it in earlier stages makes it much easier to treat. Everyone should be doing monthly self-checks in between annual visits to your primary care provider. This is the perfect time to give your skin its due attention. Any changes should be noted, and you may want to have a mirror or partner handy to peer at areas that you cannot readily see. It is not just about checking skin that is exposed to the sun: skin cancer signs can appear on skin areas that have never been exposed to the dangerous ultraviolet rays.
Freckles and moles that exhibit changes may be signals of potential activity. People with a lot of such marks may do well to have a regular check by a dermatologist simply to keep from becoming overwhelmed from trying to look at all of them. While we are still in the childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, the skin is shifting due to hormones and general growth. After approximately age 25, we are pretty set; so, if you notice your spots starting to change, it is time to get a check-up.
Remember to go through your To-Check Molphabet (mole alphabet): (1) asymmetry, (2) irregular or blurred border; (3) irregular color; (4) greater than ¼ inch diameter; and (5) growing or evolving blemish. Some people’s moles may be darker or lighter based on the skin tone, but they should never hurt and they should not have any leaks – blood or otherwise. If you have moles that exhibit any of these signs, you need to call for an appointment with your dermatologist. Want more in-depth information on moles? You can read more here.
It’s not just about moles: those with severe sunburns or generalized patterns of raised and/or red skin need a check-up. While one bout of severe damage may be unassuming, those with repeated severe damage will put themselves at greater risk of developing skin cancer. To do some more research on severe sun damage, prevention, and treatment, read another blog post here. (HINT: cover-up and lather on the SPF.)
For those with family or personal history of skin cancers will want to pay special attention. It is always hopeful that one bad spell of an illness will be enough, but diseases are not renowned for kindness.
For suspicious areas, your dermatologist will take a small sample – a biopsy – to be checked out by a lab. If it comes back positive, then it will be completely removed.