What Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer happens when skin cells grow and multiply in an uncontrolled, unorderly way.
Normally, new skin cells form when cells grow old and die or when they become damaged. When this process doesnt work as it should, a rapid growth of cells results. This collection of cells may be noncancerous , which dont spread or cause harm, or cancerous, which may spread to nearby tissue or other areas in your body if not caught early and treated.
Skin cancer is often caused by ultraviolet light exposure from the sun.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common types of skin cancer and are sometimes called non-melanoma skin cancer.
Melanoma is not as common as basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas but is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. If left untreated or caught in a late-stage, melanomas are more likely to spread to organs beyond the skin, making them difficult to treat and potentially life-limiting.
Fortunately, if skin cancer is identified and treated early, most are cured. This is why it is important to take a few safeguards and to talk with your healthcare provider if you think you have any signs of skin cancer.
You Can Get Skin Cancer: Under Your Tongue
Ever wonder why your dentist lifts up your tongue and gives it a good look underneath and around the sides? One reason is that it is possible to get melanoma on your tongue. Even though you likely arent getting much sun exposure in your mouth, it is possible if the cancer has metastasized. And odds of getting any kind of cancer on your tongue or inside your mouth greatly increases if you smoke. So make sure youre keeping up with your dental check-ups and ditch the cigarettes. Here are 51 more things dermatologists want you to know about skin cancer.
Signs Of Melanoma Skin Cancer
- Change in the size, shape, color, or feel of an existing mole.
- A black or blue-black area.
- A new mole that may be black, abnormal, or ugly looking.
- In particular, watch closely for these characteristics in new and existing moles:Borderedges are often ragged, notched, blurred, or irregular in outline the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.Colorcolor is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be seen.Diameteris a change in size, usually an increase. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser of a pencil .
Read Also: Prognosis For Skin Cancer
Melanomas That Could Be Mistaken For A Common Skin Problem
Melanoma that looks like a bruise
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin, including the bottom of the foot, where it can look like a bruise as shown here.
Melanoma that looks like a cyst
This reddish nodule looks a lot like a cyst, but testing proved that it was a melanoma.
In people of African descent, melanoma tends to develop on the palm, bottom of the foot, or under or around a nail.
Did you spot the asymmetry, uneven border, varied color, and diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser?
Dark line beneath a nail
Melanoma can develop under a fingernail or toenail, looking like a brown line as shown here.
While this line is thin, some are much thicker. The lines can also be much darker.
Do You Have A Wart On Your Butt Cheek
If you want to remove the wart from your butt cheek solely for cosmetic reasons, then there are a lot of home remedies that are available. Since warts can spread easily and may even cause clusters in some cases, it is better to get rid of them as soon as you can.
Before trying on home remedies, you should always make sure that the wart that you have is not some other type of skin growth. To clarify this you can either consult your dermatologist. Or you can also identify the difference between a wart and a skin tag yourself as well.
See the images below for warts to compare:
Below is what the skin tags look like:
Skin tags on the neck. Image courtesy O.Chaigasame
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What Does Mole On Private Parts Mean
Mole on Genitals. Having a Mole on your genitals can be seriously threatening to a person in general. Having a mole on the genitals is described saying that this person will have endless need of love. If you have this Line on Your Palm, You are Destined to Become Rich!! Know Which is this Line.
It Can Strike Where You Least Expect It
If you spotted a mole on your leg that had changed color or grown larger or asymmetrical, chances are that you would do the right thing and make an appointment to see your doctor. But melanoma, the deadliest of all skin cancers, often doesnt follow the rules and can develop in an unexpected place, such as the sole of your foot, under a fingernail or even in your eye. Click here to see what melanoma looks like.
The hidden threat: Even though we dont hear much about it, up to 30% of melanomas have an almost normal appearance or develop in areas where most peopleincluding many doctorsdont think to look.
Good news: The overwhelming majority of patients will survive if the melanoma is detected early. Where to lookand what to look for
A LUMP OR UNUSUAL PATCH
About 15% of all melanomas diagnosed in the US are due to so-called nodular melanomas. They can occur anywhere on the body, and they dont necessarily arise from preexisting moles. These melanomas are particularly dangerous because they grow into the skin more rapidly than they expand in width. Thats why most people dont notice them until theyve already spread.
What to look for: Nodular melanomas can appear as a lump that may be firm and dome-shaped or as a dark- or light-colored patch of skin that does not quite resemble the surrounding area.
Self-defense: When you examine your skin, make note of any unusual lumpor area that doesnt resemble the surrounding skin, and see a dermatologist promptly.
UNDER THE NAILS
Read Also: Well-differentiated Meaning
Where Does Skin Cancer Develop
Skin cancer is most commonly seen in sun-exposed areas of your skin your face , ears, neck, arms, chest, upper back, hands and legs. However, it can also develop in less sun-exposed and more hidden areas of skin, including between your toes, under your fingernails, on the palms of your hands, soles of your feet and in your genital area.
How To Tell A Melanoma From A Scary Mole
Telling whether an odd looking mole is a melanoma is a real challenge. In fact, the only sure way to know is with a biopsy. But, before you get them all cut out, there are signs and symptoms that can help you and your doctor to make the right decision.
According to the National Cancer Institute there are three main kinds of moles you need to know about: a common mole, a dysplastic mole, and a melanoma.
What is a common mole?A common mole is a small growth on the skin usually found above the waist on areas exposed to the sun, and rarely found on the scalp, breast, or buttocks. If you have more than 50 common moles you have a greater chance of developing melanoma. That said, most common moles do not turn into melanoma.
What do they look like?They are usually smaller than about 5 millimeters wide, just less than the width of a pencil eraser. They are round or oval, have a smooth surface with a distinct edge, and can be dome-shaped. They usually have an even pink, tan, or brown colour. People who have dark skin or hair tend to have darker moles than people with fair skin or blonde hair. Below are a few photos of common moles:
People with dark skin are much less likely than people with fair skin to develop melanoma. When it does develop in people with dark skin, it is often found under the fingernails, under the toenails, on the palms of the hands, or on the soles of the feet.
Are All Moles Cancerous
Most moles are not cancerous. Some moles are present at birth, others develop up to about age 40. Most adults have between 10 and 40 moles.
In rare cases, a mole can turn into melanoma. If you have more than 50 moles, you have an increased chance of developing melanoma.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It needs as much attention as any other health concern. What may seem like an innocent cosmetic imperfection, may not be. Performing regular skin self-checks is important for everyone and is especially important if you are a person at increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer is also color-blind. If you are a person of color, skin cancer can happen to you. Check your skin every month for any changes in skin spots or any new skin growths. Consider taking skin selfies so you can easily see if spots change over time. If youre a person of color, be sure to check areas more prone to cancer development, such as the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, between your toes, your genital area and under your nails. Takes steps to protect your skin. Always wear sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 every day of the year. Wear UV-A/UV-B protective sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and long-sleeve shirts and pants. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/19/2021.
What Are Some Of The Lesser
Some of the less common skin cancers include the following:
Kaposi sarcoma is a rare cancer most commonly seen in people who have weakened immune systems, those who have human immunodeficiency virus /AIDS and people who are taking immunosuppressant medications who have undergone organ or bone marrow transplant.
Signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma are:
- Blue, black, pink, red or purple flat or bumpy blotches or patches on your arms, legs and face. Lesions might also appear in your mouth, nose and throat.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer that begins at the base of the epidermis, the top layer of your skin. This cancer starts in Merkel cells, which share of the features of nerve cells and hormone-making cells and are very close to the nerve ending in your skin. Merkel cell cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body than squamous or basal cell skin cancer.
Signs and symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma are:
- A small reddish or purplish bump or lump on sun-exposed areas of skin.
- Lumps are fast-growing and sometimes open up as ulcers or sores.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma
Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that usually appears on your eyelid. This cancer tends to develop around your eyes because theres a large number of sebaceous glands in that area.
Signs and symptoms of sebaceous gland carcinoma are:
- A painless, round, firm, bump or lump on or slightly inside your upper or lower eyelid.
Recommended Reading: Skin Cancer Spreading To Lymph Nodes
Prevention: Know Your Risk
Talk to your doctor about any family history of skin cancer. Other things that raise your risk for sun damage and cancer include:
- Light skin, hair, or eyes
- Freckles or moles that are large, numerous, or oddly shaped
- Lots of time outside, especially at higher altitude or where itâs very hot
- Illness or medication that weakens your immune system
- Drugs that make your skin more sensitive to light
How Can You Prevent Skin Cancer
In addition to regular self skin exams, you should also have a skin exam by your primary care physician or a dermatologist each year. Tell your health care provider about any risk factors, including: sun exposure, use of indoor tanning devices, age, prior skin cancer or family history, and other health conditions.
Using sunscreen and limiting exposure to the sun during peak sun hours by seeking shade and avoiding direct sun are the easiest ways to help prevent skin cancer. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that filters both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays and offers a sun protection factor of 30 or higher every day, even in the winter and on cloudy days. Apply liberally and reapply every 2 hours. In addition, wearing sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection, as well as a wide-brimmed hat, is recommended.
Vinod E. Nambudiri, MD, MBA, is a dermatologist in the Department of Dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Instructor in Dermatology at Harvard Medical School.
Also Check: Skin Cancer Perineural Invasion
Related: The Easy Thing You Can Do Each Day To Prevent Spider Veins
“Don’t get a bad sunburn,” Khorasani advises. “Avoid tanning beds, and make sure you wear sunscreen when you are outdoors even if it’s overcast. Use protective clothing. And of course, if you have lots of moles and freckles, do self-checks for skin cancer and go to a dermatologist on an annual basis for a total body skin exam.”
If you have a history of melanoma in the family or have many moles and freckles, it may be worth getting an exam twice a year or more. Ask your doctor what they recommend.
As for Tamra, she signs off noting that celebrating her 50th birthday in Cabo this year is “not sounding like a good idea right now.” Kudos to Tamra for raising awareness about melanoma.
The Obvious Signs Of Melanoma
Now that you know all the crazy places melanoma can appear, what should you watch out for? Dr. Khetarpal says the simplest way is to remember the ABCDEs of melanoma:
A – Asymmetry: If you were to cut the mole in half, does one side looks different than the other?
B – Border: Is the border of the mole irregular instead of round?
C – Color: Are there multiple shades of color?
D – Diameter: Is the mole larger than a pencil eraser?
E – Evolving: Has the mole changed shape or color or does it bleed?
Most melanomas have two or more of the above characteristics. However, if you have a mole that appears to be changing in size, shape, and/or color, or you’ve answered “yes” to two or more of the above, Dr. Khetarpal says you should have the mole checked.
Our experts say there are some less obvious signs to watch for too, such as:
Anything strange or different underneath your nails
Bumps on your scalp or behind your ears
Bleeding when you brush your hair
Any unusual itching, bleeding, or skin changes
As soon as you experience any of these signs, go see a dermatologist. We do the biopsy in the office. Its a very simple procedure. And we know for melanoma that early detection is key, so at the earliest sign of something changing, you should seek medical attention, Dr. Khetarpal advises.
Also Check: Well Differentiated Carcinoma
The Ugly Duckling Sign
The “ugly duckling sign” is another warning method to help identify melanomas. Usually, moles on your body look quite similar to each other. However, compared to other moles, melanomas tend to stand out like an ugly duckling. The more you check your skin and become familiar with it, the easier it becomes to spot an ugly duckling early.
Tools That Can Help You Find Melanoma On Your Skin
To help you find melanoma early, the American Academy of Dermatology developed the following:
Melanoma can look different on a childs skin. Taking this short quiz can help you hone your skills at finding childhood melanoma.
ImagesImages 1,3,4,5,6,7,8,10: Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
Image 2: Developed by the American Academy of Dermatology
Image 9: Used with permission of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
ReferencesBarnhill RL, Mihm MC, et al. Malignant melanoma. In: Nouri K, et al. Skin Cancer. McGraw Hill Medical, China, 2008: 140-167.
Gloster HM Jr, Neal K. Skin cancer in skin of color. J Am Acad Dermatol 2006 55:741-60.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network. NCCN guidelines for patients: Melanoma. 2018. Last accessed February 12, 2019.
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Advice: Should A Mole Check Include My Butt
Dear Asking for a Friend,I am wondering how common it is for dermatologists to check places that are where the sun doesnt shine during a mole check? I see my derm once a year, and she only checks my arms, legs and face using that blue light thing. Recently, I noticed a strange-looking mole near my testicles, and I cant help being concerned I have heard of people having skin cancer in their buttocks and pubic area. Is it weird to ask to have these areas checked? Will she think I am a weirdo? And is skin cancer common in these hidden-away places? Signed, Mole Down Below
Atypical moles , exposure to sun and ultraviolet radiation have been linked to skin cancer, but other factors , such as living in high altitude areas, having a weakened immune system or being diagnosed with human papilloma virus or HPV may also contribute to skin cancer risk. And just because some areas of the body arent exposed to the sun, it doesnt mean youre not at risk skin cancer can also develop under the nails, around the genitals and in the anal area. In fact, according to the Canadian Cancer Society, 20 per cent of melanomas occur in areas that arent often exposed to the sun.