Skin Cancer Awareness Month spans the month of May. During this time, healthcare professionals, cancer specialists, and other industry leaders focus on educating the public about this prevalent disease and all its forms. Understanding the early signs of skin cancer is vital to preventing and curing future cases, as early detection plays a major role in determining whether or not someone recovers from skin cancer.
As such, dermatologists recommend that everyone receive regular skin cancer screenings in conjunction with performing intermittent self check-ups. The key to a successful screening, of course, is knowing what to look for. So, here are three major things to watch out for when looking for skin cancer on your body.
Like every other part of our bodies, our skin is prone to change over time. Many of these changes are normal and relatively harmless -- we might experience acne during hormonal fluctuations, our skin might dry out a bit during winter, we might develop wrinkles as we age, etc. However, some changes in our skin indicate a serious, deeper issue.
Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) and basal cell carcinomas (BCCs), often present themselves as red or skin-colored bumps or indentations, sometimes resembling skin tags, warts, scars, pimples, or other types of skin lesions. If you discover a new growth or change to your skin’s appearance, then, this doesn’t necessarily suggest a skin cancer prognosis. That said, you should have it checked by your dermatologist to properly diagnose the novel lesion. This way, if it’s not skin cancer, you can still receive treatment for whatever the problem is -- and if it is skin cancer, you can gain some peace of mind knowing that you caught it early enough to properly and completely remove it.
Melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer. Fortunately, like nonmelanoma skin cancers, most melanoma cases can be treated and cured at a high rate if they’re detected early on. When it comes to melanoma, you’ll want to look specifically at your moles. Most moles are deemed “normal” and benign, meaning they stay the way they are and don’t cause any problems. Atypical moles, however (moles that are deemed irregular in some way), may eventually develop into skin cancer, even if most of these remain benign as well.
When receiving a mole check up or performing one on yourself, you’ll want to carefully examine all of your moles and try to keep track of any new ones that may have appeared since your last evaluation. Dermatologists use a helpful mnemonic device known as the ABCDEs of mole evaluation to asses the potential threat level of a given mole. A stands for asymmetry, B for border, C for color, D for diameter, and E for evolution. In other words, if a mole is oddly shaped, larger than normal, lacks defined edges or a solid color, and/or is changing over time, it may suggest skin cancer. Your dermatologist may recommend having these kinds of moles removed as a health precaution.
Lastly, skin cancer doesn’t simply go away on its own -- when located, it must be completely removed by a professional via surgical means, and even then there is a chance that it might return (known as recurrence). So, if your skin has recurring, open sores that bleed and/or ooze and never fully heal, this is a strong indication of some form of skin cancer. Some patients might first notice this phenomenon after shaving and realizing that a certain cut won’t close up and go away like normal shaving cuts.
The three signs of skin cancer outlined above only represent the most common and glaring warning signs out there. During Skin Cancer Awareness Month (and beyond), healthcare leaders will continue delivering more detailed information to the public regarding skin cancer risk factors, early signs, prevention and treatment methods, and the latest discoveries. At Premier Dermatology Partners, we’re happy to do the same for our patients.
To learn more about our mission, providers, and all the services we offer, contact us today.