More than 3.5 million skin cancers are diagnosed in the United States every year, making it the most common form of cancer. However, 99% of all skin cancer cases are considered curable when diagnosed and treated early, so it is important to know the signs and symptoms to protect yourself and your loved ones. Keep reading to learn how you can spot the potential signs of skin cancer.
What is skin cancer?
Skin cancer, or melanoma, occurs when abnormal skin cells grow rapidly as a result of damage to your DNA.
Basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma are the three most common kinds of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinomas are the most common form of skin cancer and they usually develop on areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun for a long time. Squamous cell carcinoma is attributed to lengthy exposure to UV radiation. Melanomas are not as common as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, but they are more likely to spread throughout the body if not found and treated early enough.
Learn the ABCDEs of melanoma.
There are five features specialists look for when diagnosing skin cancer. Familiarizing yourself with the ABCDEs of skin cancer can help you recognize potentially dangerous moles or growths:
Asymmetry: The lesion has an uneven or asymmetrical shape.
Border: The edge of the lesion is ragged or not well-defined.
Color: The lesion is uneven in color with shades of black, brown, and white.
Diameter: The lesion is bigger than 6 millimeters in diameter.
Evolving: The lesion has changed in size, shape, or color over time.
When should you see a doctor about a mole or growth?
Whenever you have a mole or growth on your skin that is changing, growing, bleeding, itching, or doesn’t heal after a few weeks, it’s a good idea to see a doctor. Early diagnosis and treatment, as well as prevention, are the best tools we have for minimizing the spread of cancer.
Ask your primary health care provider for information about skin cancer services in your area. They will be able to provide a referral to an experienced specialist who can examine and diagnose any troubling moles or growths.
Take precautions to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
The good news is that most skin cancers can be prevented by taking simple precautions to reduce your chances of developing them.
One of the best ways to protect yourself from skin cancer is to learn how to recognize the signs and symptoms. Skin cancer can develop on any part of your body, but it is most commonly found in areas exposed to the sun or ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as your face, neck, ears, lips, hands, and arms.
There are several things you can do to lower your risk of developing skin cancer:
- Limit your exposure to UV radiation by staying in the shade whenever possible and wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat when you go outdoors.
- Sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher offers broad-spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. SPF information is listed prominently on sunscreen labels, making it easy to find the right product for you.
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. These devices emit powerful UV radiation that can increase your risk of developing skin cancer.
- Check your skin regularly for any changes or growths that may be signs of skin cancer. If you notice any new growths or changes in an existing mole, see a doctor right away for an evaluation.
Overall, it is important to be aware of the signs of skin cancer to receive treatment as soon as possible. Although skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, it can often be treated successfully if caught early.