Looking For Signs Of Skin Cancer
Non melanoma skin cancers tend to develop most often on skin that’s exposed to the sun.
To spot skin cancers early it helps to know how your skin normally looks. That way, you’ll notice any changes more easily.
To look at areas you cant see easily, you could try using a hand held mirror and reflect your skin onto another mirror. Or you could get your partner or a friend to look. This is very important if you’re regularly outside in the sun for work or leisure.
You can take a photo of anything that doesn’t look quite right. If you can it’s a good idea to put a ruler or tape measure next to the abnormal area when you take the photo. This gives you a more accurate idea about its size and can help you tell if it’s changing. You can then show these pictures to your doctor.
Northern Ireland Cancer Network, December 2012
Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology VT De Vita, TS Lawrence and SA RosenbergWolters Kluwer, 2018
Cancer and its managementJ Tobias and D HochhauserBlackwell, 2015
Causes And Risk Factors
Researchers do not know why certain cells become cancerous. However, they have identified some risk factors for skin cancer.
The most important risk factor for melanoma is exposure to UV rays. These damage the skin cellsâ DNA, which controls how the cells grow, divide, and stay alive.
Most UV rays come from sunlight, but they also come from tanning beds.
Some other risk factors for skin cancer include:
- A lot of moles: A person with more than 100 moles is more likely to develop melanoma.
- Fair skin, light hair, and freckles: The risk of developing melanoma is higher among people with fair skin. Those who burn easily have an increased risk.
- Family history:Around 10% of people with the condition have a family history of it.
- Personal history: Melanoma is likelier to form in a person who has already had it. People who have had basal cell or squamous cell cancers also have an increased risk of developing melanoma.
The best way to reduce the risk of skin cancer is to limit oneâs exposure to UV rays. A person can do this by using sunscreen, seeking shade, and covering up when outdoors.
People should also avoid tanning beds and sunlamps to reduce their risk of skin cancer.
It can be easy to mistake benign growths for skin cancer.
The following skin conditions have similar symptoms to skin cancer:
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Common Places For Melanoma To Spread
Melanoma can spread from the original site on your skin and form a tumor in any organ or body tissue, but its most likely to metastasize to the lymph nodes, liver, brain, lungs, and less commonly, the bones. Melanoma really likes the brain and the liver, says Lisa Zaba, M.D., dermatologic oncologist at Stanford Medical Center in San Jose, CA. If you notice any of the following red flags, it might mean your melanoma has spread and warrants a call to your doctor right away.
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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.
How Can I Help Prevent Sun Damage And Ultimately Skin Cancer
Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it’s never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by limiting sun exposure.
Maintaining healthy skin
- Stop smoking: People who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is unclear. It may be because smoking interferes with normal blood flow in the skin.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 to 3 hours thereafter. Reapply sooner if you get wet or perspire significantly.
- Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10 am and 4 pm.
- Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
- Relieve dry skin using a humidifier at home, bathing with soap less often , and using a moisturizing lotion.
- Become a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child. Eighty percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.
Understanding UV index
8-10: Very high
11 or higher : Extreme
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Staging For Merkel Cell Cancer
Doctors use the TNM system to describe the stage of Merkel cell cancer. Doctors use the results from diagnostic tests and scans to answer these questions:
Tumor : How large is the primary tumor? Where is it located?
Node : Has the tumor spread to the lymph nodes? If so, where and how many?
Metastasis : Has the cancer spread to other parts of the body? If so, where and how much?
The results are combined to determine the stage of Merkel cell cancer for each person.
There are 5 stages: stage 0 and stages I through IV . The stage provides a common way of describing the cancer, so doctors can work together to plan the best treatments.
Stage 0: This is called carcinoma in situ. Cancer cells are found only in the top layers of the skin. The cancer does not involve the lymph nodes, and it has not spread.
Stage I: The primary tumor is 2 centimeters or smaller at its widest part. The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes or to other parts of the body.
Stage IIA: The tumor is larger than 2 cm and has not spread to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
Stage IIB: The tumor has grown into nearby tissues, such as muscles, cartilage, or bone. It has not spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body.
Stage III: The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. The tumor can be any size and may have spread to nearby bone, muscle, connective tissue, or cartilage.
Stage IV: The tumor has spread to distant parts of the body, such as the liver, lung, bone, or brain.
Skin Cancer Can Cause Itching However Itching Alone Doesn’t Mean A Thing Learn Other Symptoms Of Skin Cancer And How You Can Take Action To Prevent It
The most common type of cancer among Americans is skin cancer, with melanoma being the deadliest. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps are the leading causes of melanoma. In 2013 the American Cancer Society did a study that revealed almost 77,000 Americans have skin cancer, with 60% of those people being men. Are there any signs that can be observed? Such questions can be frequently asked. Here the article will give you perfect help about that. Read on to find these answers!
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Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma Skin Cancer
How melanoma skin cancer looks can vary. Melanoma skin cancer often starts as an abnormal mole anywhere on the skin. A mole is a common non-cancerous growth. It is normally a small, round or oval spot that is usually brown, tan or pink. It may be raised or flat. Most people have a few moles.
A change in the colour, size or shape of a mole is usually the first sign of melanoma skin cancer. These changes can happen in a mole or spot that is already on your skin, or changes can appear as a new mole. Other health conditions can also look like melanoma skin cancer.
The ABCDE rule below can help you look for the common signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer. See your doctor if you have any of these changes on your skin:
A is for asymmetry One-half of a mole does not have the same shape as the other half.
B is for border The edge of a mole is uneven . It can look jagged, notched or blurry. The colour may spread into the area around the mole.
C is for colour The colour of a mole is not the same throughout. It could have shades of tan, brown and black. Sometimes areas of blue, grey, red, pink or white are also seen.
D is for diameter The size of a mole is larger than 6 mm across, which is about the size of a pencil eraser.
E is for evolving There is a change in the colour, size, shape or feel of the mole. The mole may become itchy or you may have a burning or tingling feeling.
Other signs and symptoms of melanoma skin cancer include:
How Common Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the commonest type of cancer in the United States. The skin is the largest organ in the body with a surface area of around 2 sq ft in an average adult. It acts as a protective barrier against several types of harmful agents, including heat, injuries, light, and infections. Because of the crucial protective functions that the skin performs, it is vulnerable to various conditions, such as allergies, infections, burns, and even cancer.
Depending on the cell from which it originates, skin cancer can be of several types. The most common types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These two types of skin cancers are curable unlike the third most common skin cancer called melanoma. Melanoma is the most dangerous skin cancer, causing many deaths. Even curable skin cancers can cause significant disfigurement to the affected person. Other types of skin cancers include lymphoma of the skin, Kaposi sarcoma, and Merkel cell skin cancer. Knowing the type of skin cancer is crucial for your doctor to decide your treatment.
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Abcde Melanoma Detection Guide
A is for Asymmetry
Look for spots that lack symmetry. That is, if a line was drawn through the middle, the two sides would not match up.
B is for Border
A spot with a spreading or irregular edge .
C is for Colour
Blotchy spots with a number of colours such as black, blue, red, white and/or grey.
D is for Diameter
Look for spots that are getting bigger.
E is for Evolving
Spots that are changing and growing.
These are some changes to look out for when checking your skin for signs of any cancer:
- New moles.
- Moles that increases in size.
- An outline of a mole that becomes notched.
- A spot that changes colour from brown to black or is varied.
- A spot that becomes raised or develops a lump within it.
- The surface of a mole becoming rough, scaly or ulcerated.
- Moles that itch or tingle.
- Moles that bleed or weep.
- Spots that look different from the others.
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.
When Should Itchy Skin Raise A Red Flag
Itching per se is not dangerous. As we have mentioned there are numerous reasons for an itchy skin. But when should itchy skin be associated with a cancer symptom?
Basically, patients complain of multiple lesions that are itchy or painful as well as suspicious-looking should raise some confers for non-melanoma skin cancers. According to studies, more than one-third of skin cancer lesions are itchy with fewer than 30 percent being described as painful. Some patients report their lesions are being both painful as well as itchy.
The type of skin cancers mostly associated with itching as skin cancer symptom is basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, whereas melanoma lesions were least likely to be associated with any kind of painfulness or itchiness. Even though melanomas are less common than basal cell carcinomas or squamous cell skin cancers, they are however far more dangerous.
Although itchy skin alone does not indicate skin cancer, there are a number of other features associated with the lesions that should be noted as being associated with any kind of skin cancer. These include:
- The emergence of new moles
- Moles that increase in size
- Irregular outlines of moles
- Change in color from brown to black
- A spot that becomes raised over time
- Moles with an irregular, rough or ulcerated surface
- Moles that tend to easily bleed
- Spots that look different from others
- Any ulcer or broken down part of the skin which does not heal within 4 weeks
How To Examine Your Skin For Signs Of Skin Cancer
- First, you must make sure that you check your entire body and not only the sun-exposed regions for signs of skin cancer. This includes the soles of the feet, in-between the fingers and toes, and also under the nails.
- Ensure that you examine your skin under good lighting
- Check all your skin surfaces, and you may also get assistance from your partner, family member or friend to examine your skin for any abnormal spots or bumps.
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How To Prevent Skin Cancer
Does skin cancer itch? Yes it does. However, it is more important to know how to prevent skin issues. You can prevent about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancer. Most of the other types of skin cancer are caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight. So, one of the best preventive measures to take is to apply sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher before spending a long period of time in the sun to avoid burning. Along with sunscreen, there are other precautions you can take to help prevent skin cancer:
- Stay in shades. When the sun is highest, try to stay in the shade. And help protect your infants by keeping them in shade at all times.
- Apply sunscreen rightly. Just follow the instructions on the bottle. Remember to smear the sunscreen for about 1 oz. all over the body 30 mins ahead of going out, and supplement every 2 hours or after draining too much sweat or swimming.
- Use clothing such as long sleeve shirts, pants, and hats to cover your skin if you plan on spending an extremely long period out in the sun.
- Regularly check your skin for any signs of skin cancer to catch it early. Keep your regularly schedule appointments with your doctor.
Skin Infections And Infestations
Itching and burning are commonly due to skin infections and infestations. This would result in inflamed skin. Common infections include folliculitis, vaginal yeast infections, shingles, chicken pox jock itch, ringworm, athletes foot among and many other more.
Skin infestation such as scabies and head and pubic lice would also trigger itchiness and some burning feeling.
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How Might Pain Affect People With Cancer
Any type of pain, not just cancer pain, can affect all parts of a persons life. Some days it may be better or worse than others.
If you have pain, you might not be able to do your job well or take part in other day-to-day activities. You may have trouble sleeping and eating. You might be irritable with the people you love. Its easy to get frustrated, sad, and even angry when youre in pain. Family and friends dont always understand how youre feeling, and you may feel very alone. This is not unusual, so its important to talk about your pain with your health care team so they can help.
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Dark Lines On The Fingernails Or Toenails
The appearance of a dark area under a fingernail or toenail that appears without an obvious injury should always be investigated. Melanoma of the nail bed often presents when a pigmented streak of the nail involves the cuticle . These cancers are most common on the thumb and big toe but may occur on any nail.
While subungual melanomas are uncommon in whites, accounting for only around 1% of melanomas, they are the most common form of melanoma found in dark-skinned individuals.
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