Cancer comes in many forms and skin cancer is the most common, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. In fact, by the age of 70, approximately 20% of Americans will experience some kind of skin cancer, and two people in the U.S. die each hour due to the disease. These figures are certainly alarming. Fortunately, however, while skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer, it’s also the most visible, treatable, and curable.
There is a 99% 5-year survival rate in those whose skin cancer is detected early enough. The key term here is “early detection.” If you’re unaware of a potential sign of skin cancer, or you ignore it outright, you reduce your chances of being cured and avoiding further complications. It’s crucial, then, to know a thing or two about the signs and symptoms of skin cancer so you can effectively keep tabs on your skin’s health and seek medical help when you notice any changes. Let’s break down what you should know about the symptoms and signs of skin cancer so you can take action when necessary.
Just as there are different types of cancer, there are also different types of skin cancer, the most common being basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma, and non-melanoma skin cancer. Each of these concerns the abnormal growth and mutation of skin cells, but their causes, symptoms, appearances, and treatment methods differ here and there. Likewise, their warning signs may differ, too. Most of these signs are clearly visible but may require regular attention and self-inspection to notice.
Also known as solar keratosis, this symptom takes the form of scaly patches that are red around the edges and somewhat resemble scabs. They form as a result of prolonged exposure to sunlight and sometimes go away on their own. However, they may be an early warning sign of skin cancer, specifically SCC. Therefore, it’s best to seek treatment for these patches to ensure that they don’t turn into cancer.
Similar to actinic keratosis, actinic cheilitis, or “Farmer’s Lip,” is a potential skin cancer warning sign and symptom that presents itself as red, scaly patches and occasional swelling isolated to the lower lip area. Again, these patches may disappear on their own if you take measures to stay out of the sun for a long time. Still, actinic cheilitis can become cancerous in some cases, so treating it early on is important.
Sun damage is also to blame for cutaneous horns, a certain kind of actinic keratosis, which protrude from the skin (often the face or ears) and look yellowish-white. These growths, like your fingernails, are made of keratin, and they’re more common in elderly folks with fair skin who spend a lot of time under the sun. While about 60% of cutaneous horns are benign, they may contain squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and should, therefore, be removed by a professional.
When they occur, the skin cancer symptoms and signs outlined above are usually easy to spot and treat before they become malignant and/or metastasize. That said, they’re not the only warning signs. In fact, moles, which are clusters of pigment cells near the top layer of skin and quite commonplace, can become cancerous. This is why it’s important for those with several moles or atypical mole syndrome to stay alert for the appearance of any new moles and regularly inspect their current moles for any changes.
More specifically, dermatologists tell their patients to focus on the melanoma “ABCDES” for both moles and other skin lesions: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution. In other words, if any of your moles start to appear asymmetrical (oddly shaped), lose their distinct border, change in color, size, or any other major way, these may be early signs of melanoma. In some cases, the mole may need to be removed.
Skin cancer signs and symptoms are often visible and not accompanied by other symptoms. This means that your eyes, or the eyes of a family member or doctor, are your strongest allies in identifying skin cancer early on when it can be easily treated and even cured. If you notice anything peculiar on your skin, don’t panic. Bring your concerns to a trusted dermatologist who can further examine your symptoms and deliver the proper diagnosis. The earlier you detect potential skin cancer, the better, more effective skin cancer treatment you will receive.
At Premier Dermatology Partners, our team of medical professionals is able to identify, treat, and even cure various skin-related issues, including signs and symptoms related to skin cancer. To learn more about our team and all the services we provide, contact us.