Is it skin cancer? Know when to be concerned

The statistics of skin cancer are staggering. Worldwide, it’s the most common type of cancer, with three out of four cancer diagnoses are skin cancer. In the U.S., there are more cases of skin cancer than breast, colon, prostate, and lung combined! With these figures, it’s important to be vigilant for abnormalities on your skin. Most skin cancers have a high success rate in treatment when caught early

Here’s what to look for.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three types of skin cancer: melanoma, squamous cell, and basal cell. These last two, squamous and basal cell, are most common and are usually easily treated. Melanoma, on the other hand, can be a serious condition that can spread in later stages and become difficult to treat.

What causes these types of cancer?  When skin cells are overexposed to ultraviolet radiation from tanning beds or the sun, the cells’ DNA is damaged. This triggers abnormal cells to form and multiply, creating cancerous tumors.

Melanoma

As the most dangerous skin cancer, melanoma is vital to be detected early. How do you detect this dangerous type of cancer? Melanoma usually begins as a normal mole that slowly changes shape and color. It is often a small, dark-colored or multi-colored spot on your skin that has irregular borders. It isn’t perfectly round and it may have areas that are elevated and some that are flat. It may itch, bleed, and scab over. Other melanomas take the form of a cluster of hard, shiny, dark-colored bumps or a mole whose circumference is larger than the eraser of a pencil.

If you need help remembering what to look for when inspecting your skin (or someone else’s skin) for melanoma, think of the ABCDE: Assymetry (not the same shape on each side), irregular Borders, variation in Color, a Diameter bigger than a pencil eraser, and Evolution (changing) of a mole’s appearance over time.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Not as alarming as melanoma, but still a dangerous condition needing treatment, basal cell skin cancers take on a different look. Examine your skin for these types of growths: a smooth, red area that’s indented in the middle; a brown, red, or blue-black area of the skin on the back or chest; or a flesh-colored or pearly oval-shaped bump with a rounded border that may start to bleed and doesn’t heal. You may see tiny blood vessels in the growth.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The third type of cancer brought on by tanning beds or the sun is squamous cell skin cancer. Look for hard, red bumps that look somewhat like a wart and grow slowly or for a flat area of skin that bleeds and doesn’t seem to ever heal.

Examine Yourself

Everyone should learn what skin cancer looks like and its warning signs. Every three months, stand naked in front of a large mirror and check your entire body. Skin cancer can develop in surprising places. So besides all your exposed skin, be sure to examine your mouth, inside your nose, behind your ears, on your scalp, between your toes, on the soles of your feet, in your genital area, and in your bottom crack. For parts of your body that you can’t easily see, use a handheld mirror or ask a loved one to help.

See Your Doctor

At your regular check-ups, have your doctor inspect your skin for abnormal growths. If you notice changes in your existing moles, if any areas of your skin seem suspicious to you, or if new growths or sores appear and don’t heal, contact your physician.

A Manly Cancer

Did you know that men are three times more likely to develop skin cancer than women? Don’t let suspicious growths go unchecked. If you suspect skin cancer, seek medical attention immediately—even if you’re a tough guy.

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