What Skin Cancer Looks Like
Skin cancer appears on the body in many different ways. It can look like a:
Changing mole or mole that looks different from your others
Non-healing sore or sore that heals and returns
Brown or black streak under a nail
It can also show up in other ways.
To find skin cancer on your body, you dont have to remember a long list. Dermatologists sum it up this way. Its time to see a dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that:
Differs from the others
To make it easy for you to check your skin, the AAD created the Body Mole Map. Youll find everything you need to know on a single page. Illustrations show you how to examine your skin and what to look for. Theres even place to record what your spots look like. Youll find this page, which you can print, at Body Mole Map.
What Is A Melanoma
Melanomas are the rarest of the three main types of skin cancer, but they are also the deadliest. Although melanoma usually results from sun exposure, it can occur in areas of the skin that have never seen sunlight. Besides sun damage, risk factors for melanoma include family history of skin cancer, the number of moles a person may have on their skin and other unknown causes.
One type of melanoma is melanoma in-situ . This is a type of melanoma that affects the top layer of skin onlythe epidermisand has not spread into the deeper layers of skin.
The Abcde Rule Of Melanoma
National Cancer Institute
When checking for early signs of melanoma, it’s helpful to use the ABCDE rule. The ABCDE abbreviation stands for:
- Asymmetry: An irregular shape
- Border: Ragged, notched, or blurred edges
- Color: Different colors or shades within the mole
- Diameter: Diameters over 6 millimeters
- Evolving: Changes in size, shape, color, or appearance
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Could It Be Skin Cancer
Did you know that Skin Cancer is the most common type of cancer? While it can occur at any age, the risk for skin cancer increases as you age. It is caused by a variety of factors including sun exposure and genetics. You are also at increased risk if you are Caucasian, have had multiple sunburns during your lifetime, have more than 50 moles, have light colored hair, have blue or green eyes, have a family history of skin cancer, use tanning beds, spend a lot of time working or playing outdoors, have had radiation, chemo, organ transplant or are immune compromised.
Do Black People Need Sunscreen
Short answer: Yes.
One of the first things I ask my clients is, Do you wear sunscreen? and theyre always like, Oh no! I dont have to! Latoya Chaplin, a Black esthetician from Maryland who specializes in Black skin, told HuffPost. I think a lot of Black women believe that just because theyre not burning , theyre not getting sun damage.
There is a belief that Black skins melanin, the pigment that makes skin darker, naturally protects skin from the sun and its UV rays, creating a barrier against the negative effects of the sun. But as Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a dermatologist in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, explained, thats not necessarily the case.
An African American person has melanin that blocks UV light up to SPF 13, Solomon told HuffPost. This isnt as strong as the sunscreen which is created for skin protection. Yes, sunscreen is needed.
African American people often think that because they have more melanin that they have natural sunscreen.Ã¢ That places them in grave danger.
Ã¢ Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon
Theres been debate about whether sunscreen is more harmful than helpful, since the skin can absorb chemicals from sunscreen into the bloodstream. However, the FDA has not determined these chemicals to be unsafe and the agency still stresses the importance of wearing sunscreen in order to prevent other deadly diseases. Even in the winter, Solomon suggests putting on sunscreen to protect from UV radiation.
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How Is Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck Diagnosed
Diagnosis is made by clinical exam and a biopsy. Basal cell and squamous cell cancers are staged by size and extent of growth. Basal cell cancers rarely metastasize to lymph nodes, but they can grow quite large and invade local structures. Squamous cell cancers have a much higher incidence of lymph node involvement in the neck and parotid gland and can spread along nerves.
Melanoma is staged, based not on size but on how deeply it invades the skin layers. Therefore, a superficial or shave biopsy will not provide accurate staging information used to guide treatment. Melanomas can have a very unpredictable course and may spread to distant organs. Melanomas with intermediate thickness often require sentinel node biopsy, a surgical procedure performed by a head and neck surgeon, to determine if microscopic spreading to lymph nodes has occurred.
How Do I Identify Skin Cancer
The good news is that if you catch skin cancer early, most types of skin cancer are very treatable. The three most common types of skin cancer are Basal Cell Carcinoma, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and Melanoma. Since early detection is important, we strongly encourage everyone to see their local dermatology provider for a yearly skin examination to screen for skin cancer and to educate yourself on what changes to watch for in your skin at home. It is difficult to see your own back where many people have several moles, as well as your scalp and the back of your own legs, and a simple skin screening with your dermatology provider could save your life. Its simple, easy, doesnt take long and can give you peace of mind. Send your loved ones too, you could save their lives.
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There Are Three Ways That Cancer Spreads In The Body
Cancer can spread through tissue, the lymph system, and the blood:
- Tissue. The cancer spreads from where it began by growing into nearby areas.
- Lymph system. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the lymph system. The cancer travels through the lymph vessels to other parts of the body.
- Blood. The cancer spreads from where it began by getting into the blood. The cancer travels through the blood vessels to other parts of the body.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that can show up on the skin in many ways. Also known as BCC, this skin cancer tends to grow slowly and can be mistaken for a harmless pimple, scar, or sore.
Common signs and symptoms of basal cell carcinoma
This skin cancer often develops on the head or neck and looks like a shiny, raised, and round growth.
To help you spot BCC before it grows deep into your skin, dermatologists share these 7 warning signs that could be easily missed.
If you find any of the following signs on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist.
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A Mole That’s Suddenly Different In Appearance A Small Scaly Patch Itchy Or Tender Nodules Felt Under The Skin A
See a gp as soon as possible if you notice changes in a mole, freckle or patch of skin, particularly if . The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or . Not only does the stage tell you how serious the disease is, but it can help you and. Be watchful for any new mole or freckle that arises on your skin, a sore or spot that does not heal, any existing mole that starts changing ( . · you have any of the abcde signs · a mole is itching or painful · a mole is bleeding or becoming crusty · a mole looks inflamed · you have . Melanomas can appear anywhere on your body, but they most commonly . Melanoma doesn’t always begin as a mole. It affects people of all races, genders and ages, which is why it’s absolutely critical for americans to learn about. Also, when melanoma develops in an existing mole, the texture of the mole may change and become hard or lumpy. The skin lesion may feel different and may itch, . You how to spot the early warning signs of skin cancer and seek treatment. · b is for border: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
How Is Skin Cancer Treated
Treatment depends upon the stage of cancer. Stages of skin cancer range from stage 0 to stage IV. The higher the number, the more cancer has spread.
Sometimes a biopsy alone can remove all the cancer tissue if the cancer is small and limited to your skins surface only. Other common skin cancer treatments, used alone or in combination, include:
Cryotherapy uses liquid nitrogen to freeze skin cancer. The dead cells slough off after treatment. Precancerous skin lesions, called actinic keratosis, and other small, early cancers limited to the skins top layer can be treated with this method.
This surgery involves removing the tumor and some surrounding healthy skin to be sure all cancer has been removed.
With this procedure, the visible, raised area of the tumor is removed first. Then your surgeon uses a scalpel to remove a thin layer of skin cancer cells. The layer is examined under a microscope immediately after removal. Additional layers of tissue continue to be removed, one layer at a time, until no more cancer cells are seen under the microscope.
Mohs surgery removes only diseased tissue, saving as much surrounding normal tissue as possible. Its most often used to treat basal cell and squamous cell cancers and near sensitive or cosmetically important areas, such as eyelids, ears, lips, forehead, scalp, fingers or genital area.
Curettage and electrodesiccation
Chemotherapy and immunotherapy
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When To Seek Medical Attention
There is no cause for worry when your skin tag turns black on its own. This is an indication that the tag is dying and that it will eventually fall off. In case the skin tag suddenly turns black and does not seem to fall off after three weeks, have a dermatologist check it out. You also need to get checked if the tag becomes infected or irritated.
On average, most individuals develop at least one skin tag in their lifetime. Some health, genetic, and age factors contribute to their occurrence. If you keep getting skin tags that do not seem to fall off, you may need to seek medical assistance to rule out any underlying problem.
There Is Risk In Every Season
Just because it’s not summer and you’re not playing volleyball on a beach doesn’t mean that you’re not at risk of sun damage, which can result in a heightened risk of not only skin cancer but also cosmetic concerns such as fine lines, wrinkles, and discoloration, among others, said Dr. Peebles. Whenever the sun is shining, that risk is there.
Also, dont forget that water, sand and snow reflect the sun really well onto your skin, Dr. Peebles said. Even in the peak of winter after a big snowstorm, its still possible to get a sunburn and its still possible to get those UVA-based aging issues over time.
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Q: Prevention Is Key What Are The Challenges
Multiple studies show much less frequent use of sunscreen among people of color. The most important rule, as with everyone, is simply to make sure you use it. Nuances arise in helping darker-skinned patients overcome some of the aesthetic barriers to use. The mineral-based sunscreens that are least irritating often create an ashen look, with residue, and thats a big obstacle. Patients constantly ask, What sunscreen can I use thats going to be acceptable for my skin? Ive found that the sophisticated formulations that have nanoparticles, where the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide have been micronized to limit the chalky look, tend to work well on darker skin tones. Theres been a general call to action in the industry to test sunscreen formulations on diverse populations in order to establish cosmetic acceptability across a range of skin types and complexions.
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After Squamous Cell Cancer Of The Skin Has Been Diagnosed Tests Are Done To Find Out If Cancer Cells Have Spread Within The Skin Or To Other Parts Of The Body
The process used to find out if cancer has spread within the skin or to other parts of the body is called staging. The information gathered from the staging process determines the stage of the disease. It is important to know the stage in order to plan treatment for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin.
Basal cell carcinoma of the skin rarely spreads to other parts of the body. Staging tests to check whether basal cell carcinoma of the skin has spread are usually not needed.
The following tests and procedures may be used in the staging process for squamous cell carcinoma of the skin:
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Can Skin Cancer Look Like A Mole
Dr. Wofford says, Another common question we get is about whether cancer can look like a mole, and the answer to this one is yes as well. The most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma, may initially look like a new mole or freckle or may develop within an existing dark spot. Anytime you notice changes in existing moles or freckles, you should have a dermatologist examine the lesion, especially if the spot grows or changes quickly.
Does Skin Cancer Affect People With Skin Of Color
People of all skin tones can develop skin cancer. If you are a person of color, you may be less likely to get skin cancer because you have more of the brown pigment, melanin, in your skin.
Although less prevalent than in nonwhite people, when skin cancer does develop in people of color, its often found late and has a worse prognosis. If youre Hispanic, the incidence of melanoma has risen by 20% in the past two decades. If youre Black and develop melanoma, your five-year survival rate is 25% lower than it is for white people . Part of the reason may be that it develops in less typical, less sun-exposed areas and its often in late-stage when diagnosed.
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Rate Of Skin Cancer Is On The Rise
Rates of all skin cancers are rising, and melanoma rates have been rising rapidly in the United States in the last 30 years, said Dr. Peebles. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in women age 15 to 29 years old.
And women younger than 30 years old are six times more likely to develop melanoma if they tan indoors versus those who do not, Dr. Peebles added.
One of the interesting things to me about skin cancer is that we are not saying a whole lot of different things to decrease the risk and protect the skin, said Dr. Jones. Yet compliance and follow through is obviously not being heard, in some ways, because the incidence of skin cancer continues to rise.
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
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.
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How Are Skin Cancers Diagnosed
During a physical exam, a dermatologist will identify bumps or growths that may be cancerous and perform a skin biopsy, if necessary, to learn more. A skin biopsy is a quick, in-office procedure. The area of concern is numbed with a local anesthetic, and a small tissue sample is removed. It is then evaluated under a microscope by a dermatopathologist who will determine if the growth is malignant or benign . Biopsy results come back in about a week or so.
Determining If The Cancer Has Spread
As part of your diagnosis, your doctor will also determine what stage the cancer is in. The different stages refer to whether and how far the cancer has spread in your body, on a Roman numeral scale of I to IV. A stage I cancer is small and contained to the body part where it originated, whereas a stage IV cancer has spread aggressively to other parts of the body.
Depending on the type of skin cancer that a person has, it may be more or less likely that it has spread through the body. For instance, basal cell skin cancer rarely spreads beyond the skin where it starts. However, melanomas and large squamous cell carcinomas are more likely to spread into other regions of the body. Cases of melanoma, in particular, may call for further tests to determine the specific stage theyre in.
Your doctor may evaluate multiple factors in order to stage the cancer. Using biopsies and imaging tests, your doctor may take a look at:
The size and thickness of the tumor, and whether it has grown into surrounding tissues
Nearby lymph nodes, to check for signs of cancer spread
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