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5 Signs of Skin Cancer

Tag Archives: basal cell carcinoma

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It’s very likely that you or someone in your family will develop skin cancer as one in five Americans will get this in the course of their life. Some forms can be life threatening. But if skin cancer is spotted early on it can often be cured before it spreads to other parts of the body. 

There are three main types: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. BCC and SCC are the most common forms, and rarely spread.

Melanoma develops from melanocytes, the cells that produce the skin pigment that determines our skin color. Even though it accounts for less than 5 percent of skin cancers, melanoma is the cause of most skin cancer deaths.

ABCDE Method

It is valuable to know the difference between melanoma and harmless moles. Most moles are fine unless they change in size, shape or color. When looking at a mole or skin pigment spots, most doctors recommend the ABCDE method to help determine if it’s melanoma.

A is for Asymmetry

Make sure if the mole was cut in half it would be a mirror image.

B is for Border

If there is an irregular or undefined border it could be a risk.

C is for Coloration

It should not vary in shade, but be a solid color—different shades of brown, blue, red, white and black is a warning sign.

D is for Diameter

The mole or pigment spot should be smaller than the size of a pencil’s eraser. Melanoma is typically greater than a quarter inch across, but it can be smaller.

E is for Evolution

If the mole or spot changes in size, shape or color over time then a doctor should be contacted.

Causes of Skin Cancer

The main cause of skin cancer is over-exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It develops mainly on areas of sun-exposed skin: most often on the face, chest, neck, arms as well as women’s lower legs and men’s backs. But it can also form in surprising areas— palms, beneath fingernails, spaces between toes, under toenails and genital areas.

Other risk factors include a fair complexion, history of sunburns as a child, multiple moles, atypical moles and a family history of skin cancer. Older adults are at a higher risk of developing basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Melanoma is the most common cancer for 20-29 year-olds.

May is the perfect time to start spending more time in the sun—the weather is heating up, the school year is coming to a close, and vacation season has begun. However, as you begin to spend more of your day outdoors, remember that May is also Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s important to protect your skin.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with over 2.4 million new diagnoses every year. Although basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are usually cured, melanoma is much more dangerous. The key to curing skin cancer is early detection, so be sure to schedule an annual skin cancer screening with your dermatologist.

You can also screen yourself monthly for skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a mirror to examine every inch of skin and writing down a record of any moles, freckles, and age spots. Use the “ABCDEs of Melanoma”—Assymetry, Border irregularity, Color variation, Diameter (anything wider than a pencil eraser may be cancerous), and Evolving size, shape, or color. Recording your findings can allow you to track any new developments and helps your dermatologist find any abnormalities.

Summer may be heating up, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the health of your skin.

Remember these Dos and Don’ts of skin cancer prevention:

 

Do:

Get checked for skin abnormalities by a dermatologist at least once a year, especially if you use tanning beds
Apply sunscreen whenever you’re in the sun, and re-apply every two hours and after swimming
Choose sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays
Stay in the shade whenever you can, especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Don’t:

Use indoor tanning beds, which increase the risk of melanoma dramatically.
Get sunburned, especially on May 27, Don’t Fry Day.
Stop using sunscreens once summer is over- the sun’s rays are still dangerous in winter and on cloudy days.

Image source: White93

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