Everyone Is At Risk For Skin Cancer How Much Do You Know About Skin Cancer
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma
These are the most common forms of skin cancer, and are collectively referred to as non-melanoma skin cancers.
These arise within the top layer of the skin and can appear on any sun-exposed area of the body, but are most frequently found on the face, ears, bald scalp, and neck.
Basal cell carcinoma frequently appears as a pearly bump, whereas squamous cell carcinoma often looks like a rough, red, scaly area, or an ulcerated bump that bleeds.
Although non-melanoma skin cancer spreads slowly, if left untreated, it can lead to disfigurement.
Researchers estimate that 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, were diagnosed in 3.3 million people in the United States in 2012.
See a board-certified dermatologist if you spot anything changing, itching, or bleeding on your skin.
When caught early and treated properly, skin cancer is highly curable.
To help you spot skin cancer early, when its most treatable, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone learn the ABCDEs of melanoma:
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.
The Five Stages Of Skin Cancer
Cancer in the skin thats at high risk for spreading shares features with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Some of these features are:
- Not less than 2 mm in thickness
- Has spread into the inner layers of the skin
- Has invaded skin nerves
In the earliest stage, cancer is only present in the upper layer of the skin. You may notice the appearance of blood vessels or a dent in the center of the skin growth. There are no traces of malignant cells beyond this layer.
At stage 1, cancer has not spread to muscles, bone, and other organs. It measures roughly 4/5 of an inch. Theres a possibility that it may have spread into the inner layer of the skin.
In this stage, cancer has become larger than 4/5 of an inch. Cancer still has not spread to muscles, bone, and other organs.
At stage 3, the cancer is still larger than 4/5 of an inch. Facial bones or a nearby lymph node may have been affected, but other organs remain safe. It may also spread to areas below the skin, such as into muscle, bone, and cartilage but not far from the original site.
Cancer can now be of any size and has likely spread into lymph nodes, bones, cartilage, muscle, or other organs. Distant organs such as the brain or lungs may also be affected. In rare cases, this stage might cause death when allowed to grow and become more invasive.
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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
Common Causes Of Cancer Itch In Patients
While itching can be annoying, you should not usually worry about it. Most often, the cause is dry skin caused by spending hours in a dry hospital environment or repeated cleaning of the skin while undergoing treatment. To help resolve itching, use a rich body lotion or cream after showering or bathing, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
Another common cause of itching can be an allergy. While you are preoccupied with your cancer, you may not be as vigilant about avoiding things you are allergic to. Do a mental review of your diet and the places youve been to see if you may have been in contact with one of your triggers. An antihistamine and avoiding your allergens may be all you need.
Some patients experience itching or flushing while undergoing treatment for cancer. In this case, itching may begin almost immediately after the start of the infusion. Tell your doctor or your nurse if this happens to you. Some drugs commonly cause a skin reaction and an itch. In this case, the drug can be stopped temporarily and then resumed at a lower pace. If the itching persists, your doctor may prescribe a stronger antihistamine or change your treatment protocol to make you more comfortable.
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Basal Cell Skin Cancer Warning Signs
Basal cell cancer tends to develop on parts of the body that get a lot of sun exposure, like the face, head, and neck, but they can appear anywhere.
Some are flat and look a lot like normal skin. Others have more distinctive characteristics, says the American Cancer Society , including:
- Flat, firm, pale, or yellow areas that resemble a scar
- Raised, reddish patches of skin that might be itchy or irritated
- Small bumps that might be pink, red, pearly translucent, or shiny, possibly with areas of blue, brown, or black
- Pink growths with slightly raised edges and an indentation in the center tiny blood vessels might run through it like the spokes of a wheel
- Open sores, possibly with oozing or crusted areas, that dont heal or that go through cycles of healing and bleeding
- Delicate areas that bleed easily. For instance, having a sore or cut from shaving that lingers longer than one week.
These slow-growing skin cancers can be easy to ignore unless they become big and begin to itch, bleed, or even hurt, according to the ACS.
Are Skin Cancer Spots Itchy Or Painful
Do you have moles, freckles, or spots on your body that are painful or itchy? Research shows that these spots could be a sign of skin cancer.
More than one-third of the skin cancer lesions itched, according to a study led by Temple Universitys Chair of Dermatology. The study found that nearly 36.9 percent of skin cancer lesions are accompanied by itching, while 28.2 percent involve pain. Non-melanoma skin cancers specifically, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are more likely than melanoma to involve itch or pain, the study found.
Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed type of cancer. The three most common malignant skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma , squamous cell carcinoma , and melanoma. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point of their lives. Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but it is far more dangerous, according to the American Cancer Society. The key warning signs are a new growth, a spot or bump thats getting larger over time, or a sore that doesnt heal within a few weeks.
To learn more about the skin cancer screening, or to schedule your consultation with Board-Certified Plastic Surgeon Dr. Moenster, please fill out the form on this page. You can 520-207-3100 or our Sierra Vista location at 520-458-1787. We look forward to seeing you soon!
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How Are Moles Evaluated
If you find a mole or spot that has any ABCDE’s of melanoma — or one that’s tender, itching, oozing, scaly, doesn’t heal or has redness or swelling beyond the mole — see a doctor. Your doctor may want to remove a tissue sample from the mole and biopsy it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal skin around it will be removed and the wound stitched closed. Additional treatment may be needed.
Preventing Skin Cancer In Dogs
Some types of diseases are preventable, while others are not. As in humans, many cancers are the result of a genetic predisposition. In other cases, cancer is the result of a variety of factors coming together in an unlucky configuration, but there are a few things you can do to lower your dogs risk.
The risk factor most in your control is exposure to sunlight. If you have a light-skinned, short-haired dog breed, limiting your dogs exposure to direct sunlight, especially during the peak daylight hours, may help lower his risk of skin cancer.
The most important thing you can do to help your dog avoid skin cancer, however, is to familiarize yourself with all your dogs lumps, bumps, and rashes, perhaps during your daily grooming routine, and consult your veterinarian if you notice anything suspicious.
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What Is My Skin Type
Skin types that are more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
All skin types can be damaged by too much UV radiation. Skin types that are more sensitive to UV radiation burn more quickly and are at a greater risk of skin cancer.
People with naturally very dark skin still need to take care in the sun even though they may rarely, if ever, get sunburnt. The larger amount of melanin in very dark skin provides natural protection from UV radiation. This means the risk of skin cancer is lower.
Eye damage can occur regardless of skin type. High levels of UV radiation have also been linked to harmful effects on the immune system.
Vitamin D deficiency may be a greater health concern for people with naturally very dark skin, as it is more difficult for people with this skin type to make vitamin D.
What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer Of The Head And Neck
Skin cancers usually present as an abnormal growth on the skin. The growth may have the appearance of a wart, crusty spot, ulcer, mole or sore. It may or may not bleed and can be painful. If you have a preexisting mole, any change in the characteristics of this spot – such as a raised or an irregular border, irregular shape, change in color, increase in size, itching or bleeding – are warning signs of melanoma. Sometimes the first sign of melanoma or squamous cell cancer is an enlarged lymph node.
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What Do The Early Stages Of Skin Cancer Look Like
People can have stages of skin cancer and yet not feel ill, which makes early treatment and diagnosis a little challenging. But by being aware of the early stages of this disease, you can protect yourself and seek effective treatment right away. Do you have scaly patches, raised growths, or sores that do not heal? Dr. Jurzyk from Advanced Dermatology Center in Wolcott, CT can help you identify and treat all types of cancer of the skin, keeping you from fatal complications.
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.
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Ways A Precancerous Growth Can Appear On Your Skin Or Lips
A rough-feeling patch on skin that’s had lots of sun. You can often feel an AK before you see it.
A rough-feeling patch on skin
This man said that a small patch of skin on the back of his neck felt like sandpaper. Later, a visible AK appeared on his sandpaper-like patch of skin.
One or more rough, scaly bumps that may look like pimples or spots of irritated skin.
Rough, scaly bumps that may looks like pimples
The arrows on this womans face point to actinic keratoses.
Many scaly, raised spots on the skin that may look like a rash or acne breakout.
Several scaly, raised spots that may look like a rash or acne breakout
Many of the spots on this womans forehead, nose, and cheeks are actinic keratoses.
A raised, rough-feeling patch on your skin that may be red, pink, skin-colored, or gray.
A raised, rough-feeling patch that may be red, pink, skin-colored, or gray
The reddish, pink patch below this mans sideburn is an actinic keratosis.
Flat, scaly area that looks like an age spot. AKs more commonly look like age spots in people who have skin of color.
Flat, scaly area that may look like an age spot
The spot on this mans nose may look like an age spot, but its actually an actinic keratosis. AKs more commonly look like age spots in people who have skin of color.
A dry, scaly lip that never heals .
A dry, scaly lip that never heals
It may look like this man has a badly chapped lower lip, but the white, dry, and cracked skin is actually a precancerous growth.
Basal Cell Carcinoma Early Stages
Basal cells are found within the skin and are responsible for producing new skin cells as old ones degenerate. Basal cell carcinoma starts with the appearance of slightly transparent bumps, but they may also show through other symptoms.
In the beginning, a basal cell carcinoma resembles a small bump, similar to a flesh-colored mole or a pimple. The abnormal growths can also look dark, shiny pink, or scaly red in some cases.
Melanoma: Tricky To Spot
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the skin but is more likely to start on the chest and back in men and on the legs in women.
Black Americans are significantly less likely to get skin cancer than whites, but when they do develop melanoma, they are more likely to develop it on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, or underneath the nails.
Most melanoma cells still produce the pigment melanin, so they are often tan, black, or brown, but they can also contain colors of red, white, and blue, says the American Academy of Dermatology Association .
The most basic way to spot a possible malignancy is to use the ugly duckling approach. Ask yourself whether any spot looks different than all the other ones around it it might be larger and darker, for instance, or it might be a small red mole surrounded by bigger brown moles.
The ABCDE system is another way to assess whether a mole or other spot is worrisome. ABCDE is an acronym, the individual letters of which each stand for a warning sign of melanoma:
- A is for asymmetry. One half does not match the other.
- B is for border. Edges are scalloped or notched.
- C is for color. There are several different shades of brown, tan, or black, or colors like red, blue, or white.
- D is for diameter. The spot is bigger than the eraser on a pencil, about 1/4 inch .
- E is for evolving. There are changes in size, color, shape, or elevation.
Some melanomas dont neatly fit into the ABCDE categories, says the ACS. Other danger signs also include:
How To Diagnose Skin Cancer
First, a doctor will examine a personâs skin and take their medical history. They will usually ask the person when the mark first appeared, if its appearance has changed, if it is ever painful or itchy, and if it bleeds.
The doctor will also ask about the personâs family history and any other risk factors, such as lifetime sun exposure.
They may also check the rest of the body for other atypical moles and spots. Finally, they may feel the lymph nodes to determine whether or not they are enlarged.
The doctor may then refer a person to a skin doctor, or dermatologist. They may examine the mark with a dermatoscope, which is a handheld magnifying device, and take a small sample of skin, or a biopsy, and send it to a laboratory to check for signs of cancer.
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Does Skin Cancer Itch
Many things can cause an itch: dry skin, poison ivy and bug bites, to name a few. Typically skin cancer isnt the first cause that comes to mind when you itch, but if the irritation persists, it might be something you want a dermatologist to look at.
Itching is not the usual symptom of skin cancer, and an itch, in general, is more commonly caused by something else, says Ilene Rothman, MD, Interim Chair of the Dept. of Dermatology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. Surprisingly, sometimes skin cancer can, in fact, itch, and occasionally thats the complaint from patients.
Want to learn more about skin cancer?
Skin cancer is very common but if detected early, nearly 100 percent of cases may be cured.
Not many studies have been done on itching as a symptom for skin cancers, but a 2014 study found that itching was a prevalent symptom in 36.9% of all non-melanoma skin cancers. The prevalence of itch was highest for patients with squamous cell carcinoma, at 46.6%.
Pain or soreness is probably more common, but the skin has a lot of fine nerve endings, and some irritations to those nerve endings can produce itching or pain, says Dr. Rothman. Some less-common types of skin cancer present with chronic itching, and other cancers, such as lymphoma and leukemia, can sometimes present with itching all over.
- A change on the skin:
- A new lump or growth
- Change in an old lump or growth
- A sore that doesnt heal