The 411 on Skin Cancer
Youve found a suspicious mole. Is it cancerous? Is it harmless? Do you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor? Or are you losing sleep over nothing? If youre unsure what to look for when it comes to possible skin cancer cells on your body, youre not alone.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. More than one million new cases are diagnosed every year. The deadly melanoma skin cancer is more prevalent than any other type of cancer among adults ages 25-29.
Fortunately, suspicious skin spots are curable when treated promptly. The key is early identification. According to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, most skin cancers are first detected by patients, not by doctors. That means you need to know your skin!
If you study your skin on a monthly basis, then youll notice any changes in the shape, color, or crust of your skin spots, and you can contact your doctor if necessary.
As you scrutinize your body, head to toe, be on the lookout for these three types of skin cancer
Basal Cell Carcinoma This type of skin cancer accounts for 80% of the diagnoses in the United States. It typically appears on the face, chest, or other areas that get a lot of sun exposure. It doesnt show up in existing moles, rather it appears as a pearly nodule, red-colored patch, or unhealed sore. It may even look like a scar. Since basal cell carcinoma does not spread to other areas, it is easily treated and is not life threatening.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma These thick, crusty patches typically appear in sun-exposed areas of the body, but may show up anywhere, even inside of the mouth. The scaly spots, which do not crop up in existing moles, are usually red, with irregular borders, and often produce an open sore. People with fair complexions are most likely to get squamous cell carcinoma on their face, lips, neck, arms, scalp, ears, or backs of the hands. Early treatment can prevent this type of skin cancer from spreading.
Melanoma These cancerous cells can develop in a pre-existing mole or show up as a new one. Melanoma looks like an asymmetrical mole. Its larger in size than most other moles, and it usually shows up as a blend of colors. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer because the cells spread quickly to surroundng lymph nodes and organs. Fortunately, melanoma has a 95 percent cure rate when it is caught early.
If youve located a new or different mole during your skin test, and youre not sure if its dangerous, try the ABCD method to determine if there is cause for concern.
(A) Asymmetry Moles that are not symmetrical could be cancerous.
(B) Border Irregularity Borders that look uneven, particularly scalloped borders, are a sign of melanoma.
(C) Color Variability When a mole contains more than one shade of black, brown, red, white, or blue, its more likely to be a dangerous mole.
(D) Diameter Moles that are larger than six millimeters in diameter, or the size of a pencil eraser, are cause for concern.
If you find a mole that doesnt pass one or more of the ABCD test categories, then schedule a trip to your dermatologist. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates that one in five Americans will get skin cancer in his or her lifetime. Protect your skin, and your life, with monthly head-to-toe skin checks!