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What to look out for – skin cancer signs and symptoms

June 01, 2017
doctor examining skin

Skin cancer is often a slow growing cancer, often not raising clear, red flags. However, there are a few things to keep your eye out when it comes to the disease.

When caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable – that’s the good news. The bad news is that skin cancer is often slow growing and void of warning signs. Since one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime and ANYONE can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color, it’s important recognize the subtle indicators that should prompt a visit to the doctor.

There are two types of skin cancer: melanoma and non-melanoma. Melanoma is perhaps the most widely known of the two, however it is actually the most rare form of skin cancer. Melanoma is considered the most dangerous, as it can spread to other areas of the body, including organs. Non-melanoma cancers are less likely to spread and usually treatable with surgery.

Signs and symptoms of non-melanoma cancer:
These cancers develop on the top layer of the skin and are most frequently found on the face, ears, neck and scalp. The two most common non-melanoma cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Basal cell carcinoma often appears as a hard, pearly lump. Red, wart-like bumps that bleed or are crusted are a sign of squamous carcinoma. Although both of these cancers don’t spread to other areas of the body, if left untreated they can lead to disfigurement.

Signs and symptoms of melanoma:
As previously mentioned, melanoma is the most serious and deadly form of skin cancer. Often melanoma can develop from or near an existing mole. It can suddenly appear and occur anywhere on the body, but is most common on the upper back, head, neck and torso. Early detection and treatment is essential, as melanoma frequently spreads to the lymph nodes and organs. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone learn the “ABCDE” of melanoma to spot it early, when it is most treatable.

  • A: Asymmetry. Melanoma lesions are irregular in shape.
  • B: Border irregularity. Non-cancerous moles have even borders. Melanoma lesion borders are rough or blurred.
  • C: Color. The presence of more than one color (blue, black, brown, etc.)
  • D: Diameter. Most melanoma is usually bigger than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser).
  • E: Evolving. A mole has gone through recent or rapid changes in color, shape or size.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor for a screening immediately. Being aware is the best defense against skin cancer. Be sure to periodically check your body and moles for any change that could indicate something more serious.

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