The most common cancer is skin cancer. When skin cancer is detected early it is highly treatable. Warning signs of skin cancer include changes in the shape, size or color of a mole or skin lesion, sores that don’t heal, moles or lesions that itch or bleed, or the appearance of a new growth. Skin cancer affects everyone and can occur anywhere on the skin or eyes, mouth or genitalia. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their life time. People with light skin color, light eyes, skin that burns or freckles rather then tans and those that have multiple (>50) irregular dark moles or “atypical nevi”. You also have a much greater risk of developing skin cancer if you have had frequent sunburns and/or blistering sunburns, if you have used tanning beds, if you or blood relative have had skin cancer, suppressed or weakened immune system or if you have been exposed to cancer causing compounds such as arsenic or coal.
There are three common types of skin cancer:
BCC is the most common type of skin cancer and it is also the type that is least likely to spread. The appearance of BCC can vary in shape and size. You may notice a dome shaped growth with blood vessels or a pink shiny patch or possibly a sore that may or may not heal but then returns. BCC rarely spreads however it can grow deep into the tissue and bone if left untreated.
It usually develops on skin that receives a lot of sun exposure such as anywhere on the face, neck and hands.
SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer. It appears anywhere on the skin and it can present in many shapes. It usually appears as a crusted patch or bump that can be red, bleed or a sore that does not heal, or heals and returns. SCC is most common on skin that has been exposed to the sun such as the face, ears, lips, back of hands, arms and legs. However, it can also occur on areas that are not exposed to sun such as the mouth and genitals. Risk of developing SCC in the mouth or throat increases in those that smoke or use chewing tobacco. Left untreated SCC and spread to other body parts making treatment more difficult.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Melanoma is more common in people with light skin and It can develop anywhere on the skin as well as under fingernails or toenails. Melanoma under the nails looks like a brown or black streak under the nail. In those with skin of color melanoma usually appears on the palms of hands and the soles of feet and other areas of the skin that are not exposed to sun such as the genitals, in the mouth and under nails. If detected early, melanoma is highly treatable. It is recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology to perform Skin Self-Exams at least once a month this can help you detect skin changes early.
When performing Skin Self-Exams look for signs of melanoma, be sure to follow the ABCDEs of Melanoma.