Signs of Skin Cancer

Summer is when you’re out enjoying the sun. Unfortunately, the sun could be hurting you. Summer fun could lead to skin cancer down the road. The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most survivable forms of cancer, with a mortality rate of less than five percent over five years.

There are three major types of skin cancer. Squamous-cell carcinoma affects the layer of cells immediately under the epidermis. The next layer down is the basal cell layer, where basal cell carcinoma is found. Under that are melanocytes, where melanin is produced. Cancer here, called melanoma, is the most common type of skin cancer. Melanoma can appear even on parts of the skin that aren’t out in the sun. Generally the areas most often affected are the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms and hands.

Early detection is important, as it is for most forms of cancer. If you learn to recognize signs of cancer, you can seek treatment quickly. Patients with squamous-cell carcinoma will see a firm red nodule, while a pearly or waxy bump is a sign of basal-cell cancer.

Self-examinations for melanoma make use of the ABCDEs of cancer detection:

  • A mole or other mark that is asymmetrical, with a different shape on each side,
  • An uneven or ragged border,
  • The mark has multiple colors,
  • The mark is more than a quarter-inch in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser,
  • The mark is evolving, changing its size or shape from week to week.

Some doctors are using and recommending the so-called ugly duckling approach, looking for marks that look, feel, or change differently from other marks.

If you see any of that, or rough, scaly, brown or dark pink lesions on your face and hands, talk to your doctor. Your health care provider can help you with treatment and prevention to keep your skin safe.

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