May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and here at DM Foot & Ankle Associates, we want to educate our patients on the importance of early detection and the warning signs of skin cancer. First, let’s take a look at the different types of skin cancer and their warning signs.
Melanoma is one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer and occurs when pigment-producing skin cells mutate and become cancerous. This form of skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body, and even begin in current moles that have become cancerous. Below you can find the ABCDE’s of melanoma warning signs. These are characteristics that help distinguish melanoma from a non-cancerous mole:
An uneven shape; one half is unlike the other
Irregular, jagged, or any poorly defined border
Multiple colors varying from one area to another; shades of black, brown, white, tan, blue, or red.
Melanomas are typically greater than 6mm in size, which is roughly the size of a pencil eraser. However, they can sometimes be smaller.
Any change in the mole or skin coloring/lesion that begins to look different from the rest; a change in size, shape, or color
Other Types of Skin Cancer and Their Warning Signs
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma- This type of cancer is usually found on the areas of the body that have been damaged by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. Warning signs include:
- Red, firm nodules
- Flat sores with a scaly crust
- Rough, scaly patches on the lip or open sores on the lip
- Red, wart-like sores on or in the anus or genitals
- Red sores or rough areas in the mouth
- New sores or raised patches over an old scar or ulcer
- Basal Cell Carcinoma- This type of skin cancer typically forms on areas of the skin that are exposed to the sun, like your head and neck. Warning signs include:
- Waxy skin growths: Typically, these appear lumps look almost like a scar, and can range in color from pale white to yellow pigment, and can even be the same color as your skin.
- Sores that bleed easily: These sores are easy to open and difficult to stop bleeding.
- Dome-shaped growth: These can appear as a slow growing, dome-shaped lumps that flatten out over time, may ooze, and leave a crust.
- Eczema-like scales: Basal cell cancer can present itself as a shiny and scaly pink-red patch of skin that grows slowly and is often mistaken for eczema.
- Dysplastic Nevus- These are atypical moles that are noncancerous. These moles may resemble melanoma when using the ABCDE’s, however, they are noncancerous. People who have dysplastic nevus are often at higher risk of developing melanoma or a mole somewhere else on the body.
- Actinic Keratosis- Also known as solar keratosis and is a crusty, scaly growth caused by UV radiation damage. These spots are typically found on the face, lips, ears, bald scalp, shoulders, neck, back of the hands, and forearms.
Early Detection and Prevention
As it is with any type of cancer, early detection is key. Having regular screenings is important to be aware of what is normal for your body so you can monitor any changes that may indicate the potential or presence of skin cancer. Skin cancer screenings are visual examinations to check moles, birthmarks, or other skin markers that can be indicators of cancerous tissue. During your examination, your doctor will check any spots that have an abnormal size, color, or texture. If cancer is suspected, a quick biopsy will be able to indicate if the tissue needs to be removed. It’s never too early to start having skin cancer screenings, especially if you have fair skin, multiple moles on your body, or if you have a family history of skin cancer.
In addition to maintaining regular skin cancer screenings, you should also take preventative measures to best protect yourself. The World Health Organization has linked about 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85% of melanomas to damage caused by UV exposure. Using sunscreen will help prevent skin damage from solar UV, which will ensure your skin is protected from harmful rays, while still being able to enjoy the benefits of sunlight. Always be sure to select a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF that is appropriate for your activity and skin type. Be sure to reapply sunscreen as indicated on the label.