Benign or Be Concerned?

Do you know how to identify skin cancer? Here are a few tips to do it with confidence.

It doesn’t matter if you’re fair skinned, dark skinned, a beach-body, or a hermit. No matter your skin type or lifestyle, you should get in the habit of inspecting your skin every month for unusual spots or moles. Finding skin cancer early is your best bet for successful treatment. As you examine your entire body though, you’ll need to know what to look for. Do you?

There are two types of skin cancer—non-melanoma (squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma) and melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Each of the two forms of skin cancer has its own set of symptoms to watch for.

The Bumps, Spots, and Scars of Non-Melanoma

An overwhelming percent of skin cancers are non-melanoma. It’s also this type of skin cancer that’s highly treatable. But like any cancer, it’s important to catch it in its earliest stages before it has a chance to spread. Help your skin and your health by knowing how to find it early.

The first step to catching it is to be wary any time a mole or spot on your skin changes in shape, size, or color. You should also see your doctor if you have an open sore that doesn’t seem to heal. And look for reddish or raised areas that may itch or be crusty but aren’t painful. Sometimes non-melanoma cancer appears like a shiny red, pink, white, or clear bump. The bump may have spidery veins in it, have an indented center, or bleed easily. Skin cancer can also look like a scar without a clear border or a wart.

The ABCs of Melanoma

Called melanoma because it originates in the skin cells that produce melanin (skin coloring), melanoma skin cancer is rare but also the most aggressive and deadly of skin cancers. Healthcare experts have devised a simple way to help you remember what to look for when it comes to melanoma. When looking out for melanoma, just remember the alphabet.

A is for asymmetrical. Something that’s asymmetrical is not the same shape on both sides if you draw a line down the middle. So be on the lookout for a mole that’s a strange shape.

B is for borders. A normal mole will have a smooth outer border, but a mole to see the doctor about will have uneven, notched, or scalloped edges.

C is for color. You should be in the clear if all your moles are plain old brown, but be highly concerned if you spot a mole that seems to have multiple shades of brown or even other colors such as red, blue, or white.

D is for diameter. A benign mole is typically small in size. Anything larger than a pencil eraser or a quarter inch should be checked out. Keep in mind a cancerous mole usually starts small and harmless-looking, but gradually grows larger.

E is for evolve. Something that evolves changes over time. For a mole, this may be its size, color, shape, or height. It could also be a mole that used to give you no problems but now bleeds, is crusty, or itches. It’s this evolving potential of moles that makes monthly skin checks so important. Take note of how a suspicious mole looks. Measure it or take a picture if necessary. Then compare its size, shape, and color each month to check for changes.

With these easy tests, you can go a long way toward catching potential skin cancers before it catches you off guard!