How To Detect Skin Cancer
When it comes to skin cancer, we have some good news and some bad news.
First, the bad news: skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. Each year, nearly 5 million people are treated for skin cancer, and in the last three decades, more Americans have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
But heres the good news: You can often see the early warning signs of skin cancer…without an x-ray or blood test or special diagnostic procedure. If you know what to look for and take action when you see it, most skin cancers can be detected and treated at early stages, when they are most curable.
Even for melanoma, a more dangerous skin cancer type that is more likely to spread to other body areas, the five-year survival rate is 99% for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes.
How To Spot Melanoma
Melanomas are treatable when caught early, so its important to examineyour skin on a regular basis. The ABCDE process can help you spotsuspicious changes in moles:
- Asymmetry: Half the mole doesnt match the other.
- Border: The border of the mole is ragged or irregular.
- Colors: The mole is more than one color.
- Diameter: The mole is larger than a pencil eraser.
- Evolution: The mole is changing, getting larger or bleeding.
How Can I Detect Skin Cancer
The first answer is to simply look at your skin. Because you see your skin every day, you are detector number one. By knowing what is normal for your skin, and then thoroughly inspecting it on a regular usually monthly basis, many skin cancers can be self- detected.
When examining your skin, take note of all existing spots, moles and freckles on your skin, so that youll know when changes occur or a new one appears. You can track these easily with this body mole map from the American Academy of Dermatology. Stand in front of mirror and examine your front and back, head to toe. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, palms and the back of your upper arms. Use a hand mirror to check the back of your neck, scalp, buttocks and other hard-to-see places. Dont forget the bottoms of your feet and between your toes.
Also Check: What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Melanoma
How Common Is Melanoma
Melanoma accounts for only about 1% of all skin cancers, but causes the great majority of skin cancer-related deaths. Its one of the most common cancers in young people under 30, especially in young women.
Melanoma incidence has dramatically increased over the past 30 years. Its widely accepted that increasing levels of ultraviolet exposure are one of the main reasons for this rapid rise in the number of melanoma cases.
Know The Abcs Of Melanoma
Knowing the “ABCs” or signs of melanoma, the most deadly type of skin cancer, can help you catch it early when it is most curable.
- A Melanomas often have an asymmetrical border, whereas benign moles are usually symmetrical.
- B Melanomas often have ragged or notched borders, whereas benign moles usually don’t.
- C Melanomas often contain multiple shades of brown or black within a single mole, whereas benign moles are generally one shade.
- D Early melanomas are often 6mm or larger, while benign moles are generally less than 6mm.
- E The symmetry, border, color or diameter of a mole has changed over time.
The ABCDE rule is a good guide to the common signs of melanoma. Notify your primary care doctor or dermatologist if you find spots that match the descriptions below. Some melanomas don’t fit the ABCDE rule so be aware of changes on your skin.
Support For Every Step
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Melanoma Vs Normal Moles
Moles are a normal part of skin for many people. Most people have between 10 and 50 on their body. Since many melanomas form from existing moles, its important to check your skin every few months and to know the signs of melanoma should they appear.
- To distinguish between them, here are some common characteristics of normal moles :
- Uniform color
- Clearly defined edges with a distinct border between the surrounding skin
- A round or oval shape
- A diameter no larger than 1/4 inch, or roughly the size of a pencil eraser
Click here to view a printable version of the ABCDE chart.
Read Also: What Is The Cause Of Malignant Melanoma
How To Recognize Skin Cancer
This article was medically reviewed by . Dr. Litza is a board certified Family Medicine Physician in Wisconsin. She is a practicing Physician and taught as a Clinical Professor for 13 years, after receiving her MD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in 1998.There are 8 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 11,936 times.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer but if you catch it early, it can be easy to treat. Skin cancer actually consists of a group of cancers that look and grow differently. Anyone who spends time in the sun is at risk for skin cancer, regardless of skin color or type. To recognize skin cancer, start by examining your body for any spots, moles, or bumps. Then, look closely at these spots for signs that they may be cancerous. Pay attention to any changes in your skin, and have them evaluated by a healthcare professional. You should speak to your doctor for an official diagnosis.
Screening For Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer doesnt just appear suddenly. It starts as a small growth on your colon, called a polyp, which rarely causes symptoms. If left alone over many years, polyps can grow into cancer. The only way to know its there is to look.The good news is that if your provider detects a polyp during a colonoscopy, it can usually be removed. Once its removed, it cant hurt you anymore. Your risk of cancer from that polyp pretty much goes down to zero.
Since we started doing colonoscopies in the United States, the risk of being diagnosed with and dying from colorectal cancer has greatly decreased, says Dr. Lipman.
If youre 45 years old, its time to get a colonoscopy. If everything looks good and you have no polyps, you wont need another one for 10 years.
Some people need to start getting colonoscopies earlier. People with a history of colorectal cancer in their families or people with other problems with their colon are at higher risk and may need to start having colonoscopies earlier.
About 1 in 5 people in the United States older than 50 have a polyp growing right now. If you have a colonoscopy, it can usually be removed and almost eliminate your risk of getting colorectal cancer from that polyp if you follow up as recommended.
Recommended Reading: What Are The Three Most Common Types Of Skin Cancer
Am I At Risk For Skin Cancer
Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of skin color. However, some factors increase your risk, including:
- A personal history of skin cancer
- Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun
- Blue or green eyes
- A history of indoor tanning
- Certain types and a large number of moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- Having had a lung, heart, kidney, pancreas or liver transplant
Complementary And Alternative Treatments
Its common for people with cancer to seek out complementary or alternative treatments. When used alongside your conventional cancer treatment, some of these therapies can make you feel better and improve your quality of life. Others may not be so helpful and in some cases may be harmful. It is important to tell all your healthcare professionals about any complementary medicines you are taking. Never stop taking your conventional treatment without consulting your doctor first.All treatments can have side effects. These days, new treatments are available that can help to make many side effects much less severe than they were in the past.
Recommended Reading: How Do You Test For Skin Cancer
Prevention & Early Detection
Most skin cancers are caused by long-term or intense exposure to ultraviolet rays, either from the sun or tanning beds. Daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen can reduce the risk of skin cancer by as much as 50 percent. Wear hats and long, protective clothing during the suns strongest hours, between 10 am and 4 pm
Its also crucial to catch skin can early, when treatment is usually very successful. Checking your skin regularly may help you find any new or abnormal growths to share with your doctor before they ever have a chance to become cancer. If you do notice anything unusual, or just want to stay proactive, Advocate offers routine skin cancer screenings at locations near you.
Screening Yourself For Melanoma
To protect yourself from a very curable but potentially deadly disease, doctors recommend regular self-checks at least every two months.
To help you know what to look for, consult the chart below. It only takes a few minutes every month to help protect against melanoma. In addition, you should get a full-body check once a year from a dermatologist or primary care provider.
The nose is a relatively common spot for skin cancer to develop. Skin cancer often starts on the face because its usually the body part thats exposed to the sun. The two most common types of skin cancer that develop on the nose are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma . While both types of skin cancer should be addressed right away, BCC is usually slow-growing and SCC grows more quickly. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer ,with about 80% of cases occurring on the face and 25 to 30% on the nose.
The third type of skin cancer, melanoma, is rare and much more serious. It almost always requires excisional surgery to remove it. Fortunately, most forms of skin cancer are very treatable, especially when caught early. Treatment may include surgery, radiation, topical treatments, and more.
Recommended Reading: How Does Skin Cancer Form
What Does It Look Like
Basal cell skin cancers usually appear on sun-exposed areas such as the face and neck, trunk, arms and legs.
The appearance of this type of skin cancer can vary. The early warning signs to look for are:
- A firm, flesh coloured or slightly reddish bump, often with a pearly border. It may have small blood vessels on the surface which gives it a red colour.
- A sore or pimple-like growth that bleeds, crusts over and then reappears. Any sore that does not heal within four weeks should be examined by your dermatologist.
- A small, red scaling patch.
The Abcde Of Melanoma:
Nodular Melanomas do not typically follow these guidelines – see below for guidance
You should consult your doctor if you develop any of the following signs:
- Changing shape, particularly getting an irregular outline.
- Changing colour/getting darker, becoming patchy or multi-shaded.
- An existing mole getting bigger or a new mole growing quickly.
- A mole starts to itch, becomes painful, starts bleeding, becomes crusty or inflamed.
How to detect Nodular Melanoma:Nodular melanomas do not follow the ABCDE of Melanoma outlined above.They are more even in colour and have even edges.They grow fast, downward and become quickly invasive .A good way to remember what to look out for is EFG:E = ELEVATED, F = FIRM TO TOUCH, G = GROWINGNodular melanomas are usually black, but occasionally are blue, grey, white, brown, tan, red or skin tone. The images below show some examples, but if you detect any lump on the skin that is growing quickly – seek professional medical advice immediately.
Examples of Arcal Lentiginous MelanomaUnlike other melanomas Arcal Lentiginous Melanoma is usually located on the palms of hands, soles of feet and under nails and appears as a black discolouration.This type of melanoma is more common in Asians and African-Americans and less common among Caucasians and can advance faster than Lentigo Maligna and Superficial Spreading Melanoma.These are examples of Arcal Lentiginous Melanoma:
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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.
What Tests Are Used To Stage Melanoma
There are several tests your doctor can use to stage your melanoma. Your doctor may use these tests:
- Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy: Patients with melanomas deeper than 0.8 mm, those who have ulceration under the microscope in tumors of any size or other less common concerning features under the microscope, may need a biopsy of sentinel lymph nodes to determine if the melanoma has spread. Patients diagnosed via a sentinel lymph node biopsy have higher survival rates than those diagnosed with melanoma in lymph nodes via physical exam.
- Computed Tomography scan: A CT scan can show if melanoma is in your internal organs.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan: An MRI scan is used to check for melanoma tumors in the brain or spinal cord.
- Positron Emission Tomography scan: A PET scan can check for melanoma in lymph nodes and other parts of your body distant from the original melanoma skin spot.
- Blood work: Blood tests may be used to measure lactate dehydrogenase before treatment. Other tests include blood chemistry levels and blood cell counts.
Also Check: Is Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma Curable
Exam By A Health Care Professional
Some doctors and other health care professionals do skin exams as part of routine health check-ups.
Having regular skin exams is especially important for people who are at high risk of skin cancer, such as people with a weakened immune system or people with conditions such as basal cell nevus syndrome or xeroderma pigmentosum . Talk to your doctor about how often you should have your skin examined.
Surprisingly Simple Words To Catch Skin Cancer Early
What if we told you that three simple words have the power to change your life?
If you can remember these three words, you can recognize skin cancer early when its treatable and curable.
Our friends at The Skin Cancer Foundation have made things so much easier when it comes to early diagnosis of skin cancer. They recently published new guidelines for identifying skin cancers in their earliest stages and developed an education program to help all of us with self-exams, early detection and knowing when its time for treatment.
And the good news is that it involves just three simple words new, changing, unusual.
If thats your response to seeing something new on your skin, good! New needs to be noticed. New needs to be checked out by your dermatologist. New should never be ignored. When you see new, call Midwest Dermatology. We are here, and provide an expert evaluation of anything new that pops up on your skin.
Well, that looks different
If something has changed maybe its gotten bigger, darker, or even uglier Midwest Dermatology wants to see it and evaluate it. Changing is a big sign of early skin cancers.
You dont even know what to say
The Big See
What to Expect After The Big See
If you have a spot that fits into any of those new, changing or unusual categories, book an appointment with your Midwest Dermatology skin specialist. During your appointment:
What means what exactly?
Also Check: How Do Doctors Treat Skin Cancer
Catch Skin Cancer Early With Self Exams
If youve been outside, youre at risk for skin cancer. Thats right everyone is a potential target. But this most common cancer is easiest to cure if diagnosed and treated early. Learn how to be a skin cancer detective to protect your skin and health.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer. The five-year survival rate for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent. Sadly, one American dies from melanoma every hour.
The first step in prevention is education. The Skin Cancer Foundation describes the main types of skin cancer:
Actinic Keratosis Scaly, crusty growths that typically appear on sun-exposed areas like the face, bald scalp, lips, and backs of hands. Theyre often elevated, rough in texture, and resemble warts. Most become red, but some can be tan, pink, and/or flesh-toned. If left untreated, up to 10 percent of AKs develop into squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma These are abnormal, uncontrolled growths in the skins basal cells. They often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny bumps, or scars. BCC is the most common form of skin cancer and almost never spreads, but can be disfiguring if not treated right away.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell Carcinoma
Benign mole with regular edges
Malignant mole with irregular edges