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.
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.
Look Out For An Ugly Duckling
The Ugly Duckling is another warning sign of melanoma. This recognition strategy is based on the concept that most normal moles on your body resemble one another, while melanomas stand out like ugly ducklings in comparison. This highlights the importance of not just checking for irregularities, but also comparing any suspicious spot to surrounding moles to determine whether it looks different from its neighbors. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.
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What Is Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second-most common type of skin cancer, after basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cells are flat cells near the surface of the skin.
Squamous cell carcinomas most often appear in areas of the body frequently exposed to sunlight, including the lips, face and hands. They can take a variety of forms. For example, a SCC can be:
- A brown spot
- A horn-shaped growth
Some SCCs may itch, bleed or crust over.
SCCs are typically easy to treat. Left untreated, however, they can grow into deeper layers of skin and even metastasize to other parts of the body. While much less deadly than melanoma, SCC kills more than 15,000 Americans each year.
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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.
What Is Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. Basal cells line the deepest layer of the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin.
Like SCCs, basal cell carcinomas can take on many forms, including:
- A reddish patch or irritated area of skin, which may itch or hurt
- An open sore that doesnt heal, or one that heals and later returns
- A shiny, possibly translucent bump or nodule
- A small, pink growth
- A flat, waxy-looking white or yellow area that resembles a scar
- A scar or growth with slightly elevated, rolled edges and/or a depression in the middle
Basal cell carcinomas typically appear in areas that are exposed to the sun. Because they grow slowly, they are usually curable. However, if left untreated, they can grow deep into the skin and cause disfiguration.
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Ways A Precancerous Growth Can Appear On Your Skin Or Lips
A rough-feeling patch on skin thats 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.
Waited For My Scheduled Skin Check
I already had a regular skin check scheduled with my dermatologist in a few weeks, so I decided to wait until that appointment to have it looked at. And honestly, within a week I was ready to call her to have her look at it sooner because it was that painful. Every time it rubbed against my clothing, it hurt. When I turned over at night while I was sleeping, it hurt and the pain woke me up.
During the appointment, when I told my doctor it appeared out of nowhere and it hurt, she told me she thought it was squamous cell skin cancer because they tend to appear suddenly. She biopsied it, and when the results came back as squamous cell, we scheduled surgery. During the surgery, I asked her why it had hurt so much, and she said that was typical of squamous cell areasâ they grow rather suddenly and become a placeholder of space in a place they dont belong.
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Actinic Keratosis Signs And Symptoms
Many people have actinic keratosis , also called solar keratosis, on their skin. It shows that youâve had enough sun to develop skin cancer, and it is considered a precursor of cancer, or a precancerous condition.
Usually AK shows up on the parts of your body that have received the most lifetime sun exposure, like the face, ears, scalp, neck, backs of the hands, forearms, shoulders and lips.
Some of the same treatments used for nonmelanoma skin cancers are used for AK to ensure it does not develop into a cancerous lesion.
This abnormality develops slowly. The lesions are usually small, about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch in size. You may see a few at a time. They can disappear and later return.
- AK is a scaly or crusty bump on the skinâs surface and is usually dry and rough. It can be flat. An actinic keratosis is often noticed more by touch than sight.
- It may be the same color as your skin, or it may be light, dark, tan, pink, red or a combination of colors.
- It can itch or produce a prickling or tender sensation.
- These skin abnormalities can become inflamed and be encircled with redness. Rarely, they bleed.
Get To Know Your Skin
It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.
Its important to get to know your skin and what is normal for you, so that you notice any changes. Skin cancers rarely hurt and are much more frequently seen than felt.
Develop a regular habit of checking your skin for new spots and changes to existing freckles or moles.
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Where Within The Skin Layers Does Skin Cancer Develop
Where skin cancer develops specifically, in which skin cells is tied to the types and names of skin cancers.
Most skin cancers begin in the epidermis, your skins top layer. The epidermis contains three main cell types:
- Squamous cells: These are flat cells in the outer part of the epidermis. They constantly shed as new cells form. The skin cancer that can form in these cells is called squamous cell carcinoma.
- Basal cells: These cells lie beneath the squamous cells. They divide, multiply and eventually get flatter and move up in the epidermis to become new squamous cells, replacing the dead squamous cells that have sloughed off. Skin cancer that begins in basal cells is called basal cell carcinoma.
- Melanocytes: These cells make melanin, the brown pigment that gives skin its color and protects your skin against some of the suns damaging UV rays. Skin cancer that begins in melanocytes is called melanoma.
To Reduce The Desire To Scratch
- Apply cool, wet packs to the skin. Remove the pack when it becomes warm, and let your skin dry. Use again as needed.
- Keep nails clean and short. Wear clean fabric gloves if you scratch without thinking about it.
- Try rubbing, pressure, cool cloths, or vibration instead of scratching. Avoid breaking the skin.
- Wear loose, soft clothing.
- Distract yourself with music, reading, and the company of others.
- Take medicines for itching as prescribed.
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The Ugly Duckling Method
The ugly duckling method works on the premise that a personâs moles tend to resemble one another. If one mole stands out in any way, it may indicate skin cancer.
Of course, not all moles and growths are cancerous. However, if a person notices any of the above characteristics, they should speak with a doctor.
Does Melanoma Itch
May 8, 2020
If you have a mole, skin growth, skin lesion or dark spot that begins to itch, dont panic but do pay attention. Most moles are harmless, and itching could be the result of irritation from clothing, or even a new detergent. But any itchy mole, growth or wound could also be a symptom of skin cancer either melanoma or, more likely, another form of skin cancer.
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What You Can Do
Check yourself: No matter your risk, examine your skin head-to-toe once a month to identify potential skin cancers early. Take note of existing moles or lesions that grow or change. Learn how to check your skin here.
When in doubt, check it out. Because melanoma can be so dangerous once it advances, follow your instincts and visit your doctor if you see a spot that just doesnt seem right.
Keep in mind that while important, monthly self-exams are not enough. See your dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
If youve had a melanoma, follow up regularly with your doctor once treatment is complete. Stick to the schedule your doctor recommends so that you will find any recurrence as early as possible.
When To Visit A Podiatrist
Podiatrists are uniquely trained as lower extremity specialists to recognize and treat abnormal conditions on the skin of the lower legs and feet. Skin cancers affecting the feet may have a very different appearance from those arising on the rest of the body. For this reason, a podiatrist’s knowledge and clinical training is of extreme importance for patients for the early detection of both benign and malignant skin tumors.
Learn the ABCDs of melanoma. If you notice a mole, bump, or patch on the skin that meets any of the following criteria, see a podiatrist immediately:
- Asymmetry – If the lesion is divided in half, the sides don’t match.
- Borders – Borders look scalloped, uneven, or ragged.
- Color – There may be more than one color. These colors may have an uneven distribution.
- Diameter The lesion is wider than a pencil eraser .
To detect other types of skin cancer, look for spontaneous ulcers and non-healing sores, bumps that crack or bleed, nodules with rolled or donut-shaped edges, or scaly areas.
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Buildup Of Bile Salts
Bile is a digestive liquid that’s produced by the liver and mostly made of bile salts.
Blocked bile ducts, which are the tubes that carry bile from the liver, or the breakdown of red blood cells can both lead to the buildup of bile salts under the skin. This often leads to severe itching.
This may occur with leukemias and lymphomas due to the breakdown of blood cells. It may occur in abdominal cancers, such as those of the liver and gallbladder, and any cancer that spreads to the liver such as breast, lung, colon cancers, and more.
Sometimes the buildup of bile salts is associated with jaundice, though not always.
How Do You Treat Non
Usually, the only treatment needed for non-melanoma skin cancer is surgery. The affected cells are removed along with a surrounding area, to make sure no cancer cells are left behind.
Theres also photodynamic therapy, which is when cancer cells are killed by bright light after youve taken a drug that makes your skin more sensitive to light.
And radiotherapy is also sometimes used instead of or as well as surgery. Chemotherapy creams and injections are options too.
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How Common Is Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.
Other skin cancer facts:
- Around 20% of Americans develop skin cancer sometime in their life.
- Approximately 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
- Having five or more sunburns in your life doubles your chance of developing melanoma. The good news is that the five-year survival rate is 99% if caught and treated early.
- Non-Hispanic white persons have almost a 30 times higher rate of skin cancer than non-Hispanic Black or Asian/Pacific Islander persons.
- Skin cancer in people with skin of color is often diagnosed in later stages when its more difficult to treat. Some 25% of melanoma cases in African Americans are diagnosed when cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
Can Skin Cancers Cause Itching
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are the most commonly diagnosed types of skin cancer and are treatable. BCC and SCC can cause itching in about 40% of people. Itching in these cases is typically mild and goes away once the cancer is removed. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, rarely causes itching.
If you notice a new mole or changes in an existing mole and want a skin cancer screening, visit our experienced dermatologists at the Skin Center of South Miami. Were experts regarding skin exams and early cancer detection. We deliver personalized dermatology care for every person in every case. Call us at 305-740-6181 orfill out the form on this page to schedule a consultation today.
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Squamous Cell Carcinoma Risk Factors
Certain things make you more likely to develop SCC:
Your doctor may refer you to a dermatologist who specializes in skin conditions. They will:
- Ask about your medical history
- Ask about your history of severe sunburns or indoor tanning
- Ask if you have any pain or other symptoms
- Ask when the spot first appeared
- Give you a physical exam to check the size, shape, color, and texture of the spot
- Look for other spots on your body
- Feel your lymph nodes to make sure they arent bigger or harder than normal
If your doctor thinks a bump looks questionable, theyll remove a sample of the spot to send to a lab for testing.