Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States with more new cases occurring than combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer each year. Every year, more than 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer, and many of these cases could be prevented by protecting the skin from excessive sun exposure and avoiding indoor tanning. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color, and it is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. With early detection, skin cancer is highly treatable.
What does skin cancer look like?
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
- BCC is the most common type of skin cancer.
- BCCs frequently develop in people who have fair skin, yet can develop in people with darker skin.
- BCCs look like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump or a pinkish patch of skin.
- BCCs develop after years of frequent sun exposure or indoor tanning.
- BCC are common on the head, neck, and arms, yet can form anywhere on the body, including the chest, abdomen, and legs.
- Early diagnosis and treatment for BCC is important. BCC can invade the surrounding tissue and grow into the nerves and bones, causing damage and disfigurement.
- SCC is the second most common type of skin cancer.
- People who have light skin are most likely to develop SCC, but they can develop in people with darker skin.
- SCC often looks like a red firm bump, scaly patch, or a sore that heals and then re-opens.
- SCC tend to form on skin that gets frequent sun exposure, such as the rim of the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, and back. SCC can grow deep in the skin and cause damage and disfigurement. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent this and stop SCC from spreading to other areas of the body.
- Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.
- Melanoma frequently develops in a mole or suddenly appears as a new dark spot on the skin.
- Early diagnosis and treatment are critical.
- Knowing the ABCDE warning signs of melanoma can help you find an early melanoma.
A benign mole is not asymmetrical. If you draw an imaginary line through your mole and the two halves do not match, this could be a warning sign for melanoma.
A benign mole has smooth, even borders, unlike melanomas. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may be scalloped, notched, or irregular.
Most benign moles are all one color, often a single shade of brown. Having a variety of colors is another warning sign for melanoma. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, white or blue.
Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than malignant ones. Melanomas are usually larger in diameter than a pencil eraser tip (6mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
Common, benign moles look the same over time. Be on the alert when a mole starts to evolve or change in any way. If you are concerned your mole is changing, please schedule an appointment to come see us right away for a skin check. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting can point to danger and should be taken seriously.
What are some skin cancer prevention tips?
Do Not Burn.
- Overexposure to the sun is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.
Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds.
- UV light from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.
- Generously apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply at least every two hours, and after swimming or sweating.
- Wear sun-protective clothing (labeled with a UPF rating) such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection. Even when you are driving in the car it is important to keep the backs of your hands and arms protected with sun sleeves and sun gloves.
- Seek shade when the sun's UV rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Watch for the UV Index.
- Pay attention to the UV Index when planning outdoor activities to prevent overexposure to the sun.
If you have any questions about a recent diagnosis of skin cancer or are concerned about a spot you currently have, please don’t hesitate to call our office to schedule an appointment.