Who Gets Skin Cancer And Why
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer. But it doesn’t explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. Exposure to environmental hazards, radiation treatment, and even heredity may play a role. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have:
- Fair skin or light-colored eyes
- An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns
- Lived at high altitudes or with year-round sunshine
- Received radiation treatments
Pigmentation In Your Gums
A dark spot on your gums can signal mucosal melanoma, an extremely rare form of the skin cancer that appears on mucus membranesin your mouth, your nose, genitals, and even within your respiratory and GI tracts. Mucosal melanoma accounts for 1.4% of all melanoma cases, but its particularly lethal compared to other forms of the disease. Aside from pigmented lesions in these mucous-lined areas, other symptoms may include pain, bleeding, lumps, or changes in your GI tract such as diarrhea or constipation.
Can Black People Prevent Skin Cancer
You can take the following steps in your day-to-day life to help prevent skin cancer:
- Choose shade. Exposure to UV rays causes many types of skin cancer. Because of this, try to stay out of direct sunlight if youre outside.
- Steer clear of certain times. Try to avoid being outside when the sun is strongest, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Instead, aim to be outside either earlier or later in the day.
- Wear sunscreen. If youre going to be out in the sun, make sure to wear sunscreen. Some tips for this include:
- Select a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply your sunscreen about 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. This allows it to better soak into your skin.
- Dont forget to put sunscreen on areas like the tops of the feet, ears, and back of the neck.
- Reapply your sunscreen every 2 hours or after sweating or swimming.
Skin cancer is often diagnosed in its later stages in Black people. Because of this, the outlook can sometimes be poorer.
Later diagnosis may be due to a variety of different factors, such as:
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Stains Due To Venous Insufficiency
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.
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Purpura Pigmentosa Progressiva :
Purpura pigmentosa progressiva is a chronic, intermittent skin disease in which the smallest vessels become inflamed. The cause is not clear. Possible triggers are drugs and trigger factors are food, food additives and contact allergens, e.g. in textiles. The disease causes skin bleeding that starts on the lower legs. Typical are irregular brown-red skin spots of different sizes with surrounding, partly reddish spots, comparable to peppercorns .
Biological Therapies And Melanoma
Biological therapies are treatments using substances made naturally by the body. Some of these treatments are called immunotherapy because they help the immune system fight the cancer, or they occur naturally as part of the immune system.
There are many biological therapies being researched and trialled, which in the future may help treat people with melanoma. They include monoclonal antibodies and vaccine therapy.
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Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer
Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.
Black Spots On Skin: Causes Treatments Pictures And More
Black spots on skin can come in all shapes and sizes and can affect your face, shoulders, arms, or upper body. Some spots look like tiny black dots that resemble a black rash on your skin. Other types of black spots can be flat dark patches of skin whereas some can be raised black bumps or very dark moles.
Very often, dark patches of skin appear as we get older. This can cause dark spots on areas of the body exposed to the sun. For example, black spots on the scalp are common on older men who are bald. Some causes of tiny black dots on the face could be blackheads, scabies, or tiny dark freckles. Other reasons for dark spots on the skin can be due to some dermatological conditions. Of course, you may be worried if a black spot or mole is skin cancer.
Depending on the cause, dark spots on the skin may be itchy or irritate the surrounding area. Itching or scratching some black spots or dark skin tags on your skin may cause them to bleed easily.
Treating black spots on the face or skin usually requires addressing the underlying issue. In some cases, you should consult a dermatologist for treatment advice for black moles that appear to grow or have an irregular edge.
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The Abcdes Of Melanoma
The first five letters of the alphabet are a guide to help you recognize the warning signs of melanoma.
A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves dont match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges. Common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
C is for Color. Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.
D is for Diameter or Dark. While its ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, its a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser or larger. Some experts say it is important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.
E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
If you notice these warning signs and symptoms, or see anything NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin see a dermatologist promptly.
A is for Asymmetry
D is for Diameter or Dark
E is for Evolving
E is for Evolving
How To Check Your Skin
- Make sure you check your entire body, as skin cancers can sometimes occur on parts of the body that are not exposed to the sun, such as the soles of the feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
- Undress completely and make sure you have good light.
- Use a mirror to check hard to see spots, like your back and scalp, or get a family member, partner or friend to check for you.
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Squamous Cell Skin Cancers
Squamous cell skin cancers can vary in how they look. They usually occur on areas of skin exposed to the sun like the scalp or ear.
Thanks to Dr Charlotte Proby for her permission and the photography.
You should see your doctor if you have:
- a spot or sore that doesn’t heal within 4 weeks
- a spot or sore that hurts, is itchy, crusty, scabs over, or bleeds for more than 4 weeks
- areas where the skin has broken down and doesn’t heal within 4 weeks, and you can’t think of a reason for this change
Your doctor can decide whether you need any tests.
Cancer and its management J Tobias and D HochhauserBlackwell, 2015
Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2018
Should People Have A Doctor Remove A Dysplastic Nevus Or A Common Mole To Prevent It From Changing Into Melanoma
No. Normally, people do not need to have a dysplastic nevus or common mole removed. One reason is that very few dysplastic nevi or common moles turn into melanoma . Another reason is that even removing all of the moles on the skin would not prevent the development of melanoma because melanoma can develop as a new colored area on the skin . That is why doctors usually remove only a mole that changes or a new colored area on the skin.
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Risk Of Further Melanomas
Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups.
Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups â everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems.
After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. A combination of sun protection measures should be used during sun protection times .
As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times.
It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.
How Is Skin Cancer Diagnosed
Skin cancer is often diagnosed by a dermatologist. This is a type of doctor who specializes in conditions affecting the skin. The first steps include getting your medical history and performing a physical exam.
The physical exam will include a skin exam, during which your dermatologist checks your skin for spots or bumps that appear abnormal. If they find an area that has a concerning color, size, or shape, theyll perform a skin biopsy.
During a skin biopsy, all or a portion of the abnormal-looking area is carefully removed using a sterile instrument. Local anesthesia is used to numb the area, so you wont feel pain during the procedure.
The biopsy sample is sent to a lab where its checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. When the analysis is complete, your dermatologist will receive a report of the results, which theyll then communicate to you.
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Rare Types Of Melanoma
- Mucosal melanoma. A form of melanoma that is found in moist areas of the body, such as the eyes, mouth, vagina, and vulva, among others.
- Desmoplastic melanoma. A form of melanoma that is usually found on skin that contains high amounts of cumulative skin damage on the head and neck. It accounts for approximately 1 percent of all melanomas in the United States.
- Uveal melanoma. A form of melanoma found in the eyes that may cause vision impairment and loss, among other issues. Early symptoms of uveal melanoma are rare and often discovered during routine eye exams. Later symptoms can include dark spots in the eyes, blurred vision, floaters, and changes to the eye shape and position.
Moles And Birthmarks On The Body
The pinhead to pea-sized moles or liver spots are brownish accumulations of pigment rich cells. These can be so-called melanocytes, which normally release their pigment, melanin, to the skin and thus ensure that the skin turns brown. The medical term for moles is short nevus. These are often congenital. The risk of developing skin cancer from these small patches is slightly increased. Therefore, regular check-ups by the dermatologist are absolutely recommended. Read about what to look out for in moles.
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Sneaky Warning Signs Of Melanoma You Might Miss
by Health Writer
You know whatmelanoma looks like, right? Youve probably seen the iconic pictures of a big, brown mole with jagged edges. And while thats the image that most of us conjure when we think of melanoma, its not the onlysign of this skin cancer. Some are far less obvious. Melanoma may not be brown it may not be a moleit might not even appear on your skin! We talked to top skin cancer experts to pinpoint the sneakiest forms of malignant melanoma.
Know Your Risk Of Skin Cancer
One million people age 65 and older develop some type of skin cancer each year, and they also have the highest death rate from melanoma. Cumulative exposure to the sun is the main contributor to older adults higher risk.
Youre also at higher risk of skin cancer if you have:
- Fair skin
- Red or blond hair
- A history of blistering sunburns and/or outdoor summer jobs for three or more years as a teenager
- A large number of moles
- A history of actinic keratoses
- A personal or family history of the disease
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How Is Melanoma Diagnosed
The only way to diagnose melanoma is to remove tissue and check it for cancer cells. The doctor will remove all or part of the skin that looks abnormal. Usually, this procedure takes only a few minutes and can be done in a doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital. The sample will be sent to a lab and a pathologist will look at the tissue under a microscope to check for melanoma.
Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Treatment
Many early-stage small basal cell cancers or squamous cell cancers can be removed by Mohs surgery, a technique that spares normal tissue through repeated intraoperative margin testing, removing only the cancer and leaving adjacent normal tissue. Tumors with nerve involvement, lymph node involvement or of a large size are not suitable for Mohs surgery. They require a multimodality approach to treatment, with formal surgical resection and adjuvant radiation or chemotherapy.
Melanoma is more likely to spread, and aggressive surgical resection with wide margins is required, in addition to radiation and/or chemotherapy.
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Can Other People Of Color Get Skin Cancer
Its possible for other People of Color to develop skin cancer as well. Its associated with the same types of risks as in Black people.
Compared with white people, the rate of skin cancer in other People of Color is lower. However, its higher than in Black people. For example, according to data from the CDC, in 2018 there were:
- 5 melanoma cases per 100,000 Native American or Alaska Native people
- 4 melanoma cases per 100,000 Latino people
- 1 melanoma cases per 100,000 Asian and Pacific Islander people
There are several types of skin cancer. Its possible that some types may be more common in certain People of Color than in others.
Finding Care For Skin Cancer If You Are Black
If youre looking for skin cancer care that focuses on black skin, there are several resources that can help:
- American Academy of Dermatology. The American Academy of Dermatology has a search tool to help you find a board certified dermatologist in your area. Be sure to filter your search for a practice that focuses on skin of color.
- Skin of Color Society. The Skin of Color Society aims to promote awareness and raise excellence in dermatology for skin of color. Use its search tool to help you find a doctor near you.
- Black Derm Directory. The Black Derm Directory is a resource that can help you find a dermatologist who specifically focuses on conditions affecting black skin.
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