With early skin cancer detection, most skin cancer can be treated quickly and successfully. The more developed the skin cancer is, the more chances for complications. Undetected skin cancers could potentially spread below the skin and even to different organs.
There are over 5.4 million cases of skin cancer every year, making it the most common form of cancer.
Early Skin Cancer Detection is Key to Effective Treatment
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends doing self-checks for skin cancer once every month as well as a professional evaluation once per year. It takes about 15 minutes for a dermatologist to perform a full body skin check. If you are interested in performing your own skin checks, the Skin Cancer Foundation has instructions on their website for how to do a step by step self-examination for skin cancer.
While many types of skin cancer will be more obvious due to open sores or discolorations of the skin, melanoma is often less obvious. Melanoma, while less noticeable, is the most important of all the skin cancers to catch early. Early detection improves the chances of quick and successful treatment.
We recommend a skin check with a board certified dermatologist whenever you find something that is concerning or about once a year. Early detection is the most important part of treatment for skin cancer; especially with melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer.
The ABCDE’s of Melanoma Skin Cancer Detection
In order to help people more easily identify moles at risk for melanoma the ABCDE’s of melanoma skin cancer detection were created to identify melanoma characteristics.
A for Assymetry- one half of a mole is different from the other.
B for Borders- ragged edges, notched edges, or blurred edges are all warning signs.
C for Color- Non uniform color or pigmentation.
D for Diameter- mole is larger than 6 mm or ¼ inch (about the size of a pencil eraser).
E for Evolution- a mole that is changing in shape, size, color. Be aware if the mole starts itching or becomes tender.
Other Common Types of Skin Cancer
While melanoma skin cancer is the most deadly form of skin cancer, it is not actually the most common. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, followed by squamous cell carcinoma.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Appearance: A bump often similar in size and shape to a pearl. Or, a patch of skin pinkish in color.
Location on the body: Most common in areas with significant sun exposure such as the head, arms and neck. Can also appear other places, especially in people who consistently expose their unprotected skin to sunlight.
Dangers: Can grow into surrounding tissue and damage nerves or bones. Can also cause disfigurement.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Appearance: A red, firm sore or scaly patch that usually heals and re-opens.
Location on the body: Generally in areas that get consistent unprotected sun exposure such as the head, neck, and arms.
Dangers: Left untreated, can grow under the skin and cause damage to surrounding tissues, potentially leading to disfigurement.
Actinic Keratoses (generally pre-cancerous)
Appearance: Dry, scaly patches that are generally precancerous growths and a warning sign of SCC.
Location on the body: Places with consistent unprotected sun exposure- mainly the head, neck and arms but can appear in other areas as well
Dangers: Actinic keratoses are generally precancerous growths. This means it is important to treat them before they turn into SCC.
Make Sure to be on the Safe Side with Skin Cancer
Prevention is the best cure for skin cancer, and skin cancer is one of the only forms of cancer where the most common cause is clear cut: the sun.
Make sure to wear a high quality SPF 30+ when out in the sun, and keep unprotected areas covered. Being responsible in the sun will also help you to look better as you age, as the sun causes an estimated 80% of the skin damage responsible for aging!
Skin checks are a simple exercise that can be incredibly beneficial in the long run. Early detection is key to effective treatment regardless of the type of skin cancer. If you have any concerns about an irregular, changing mole, or a patch of skin that has changed, be sure to set up an appointment with your dermatologist today.