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How To Find Skin Cancer

Causes Of Skin Cancer

How To Identify Skin Cancer

One of the main causes of skin cancer is being exposed to UV rays. UV rays are invisible, and are produced by the sun, and tanning equipment.

UV rays cause skin cancer by creating changes in the cells of your skin. In some cases, the UV rays cause direct damage to your cells. Tans and sunburns, for example, are both signs that UV rays have damaged your skin. In other cases, UV rays cause skin cancer indirectly, by weakening the immune system.

Many studies on skin cancer show that people who have suffered many severe sunburns in childhood are at greater risk of developing skin cancer. Family history, some chemical exposures, and immune dysfunction conditions can also create a greater risk of developing skin cancer.

What Causes Skin Cancer

Most cases of skin cancer are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation. This comes from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. There are 2 types of UV rays:

  • UVA rays UVA rays penetrate clouds and glass. They penetrate the skin more deeply and damage the basal layer of the skin.
  • UVB rays UVB rays damage the upper layers of the skin. They are the main cause of tanning and sunburn.

Researchers used to believe that only UVB rays led to cancer. But studies have shown that both UVA and UVB damage the skin and can cause cancer.

A tan is the bodys attempt to protect itself from the suns harmful rays. Even if you dont burn, being in the sun too often for too long can lead to skin cancer.

Tanning booths are just as dangerous as long periods of sunlight.

Some people are more at risk of developing skin cancer. Things that could increase your risk include:

  • Having fair skin, blonde or red hair, and light-colored eyes.
  • Long-term sun exposure, such as working outside.
  • A history of bad sunburns, especially as a child or teenager.
  • Using indoor tanning beds.
  • Having a weakened immune system, including having an organ transplant.

Melanoma can occur anywhere on your body. This includes places that arent exposed to the sun. So there could be other factors that can cause it. Risk factors for developing melanoma include:

Cancer May Spread From Where It Began To Other Parts Of The Body

When cancer spreads to another part of the body, it is called metastasis. Cancer cells break away from where they began and travel through the lymph system or blood.

  • Lymph system. The cancer gets into the lymph system, travels through the lymph vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.
  • Blood. The cancer gets into the blood, travels through the blood vessels, and forms a tumor in another part of the body.

The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if skin cancer spreads to the lung, the cancer cells in the lung are actually skin cancer cells. The disease is metastatic skin cancer, not lung cancer.

Also Check: Is Melanoma The Worst Cancer

What Are Skin Cancer Screening Guidelines For A Self

It is helpful to be familiar with your skin to detect any signs of skin cancer early. Many health care providers recommend checking your skin once a month.

To do a self-exam of your skin, find a room that is well lit and stand in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to see parts of your body that are hard to see in the full-length mirror, like the backs of your thighs.

Look over all the areas of your body, including the soles of your feet, palms of your hands, ears, nails, scalp, and back.

Stand facing the mirror and check your ears, face, neck, belly, and chest. Lift your breasts and check the skin underneath. Check your underarms, the palms and tops of your hands, both sides of your arms, under your fingernails, and in between your fingers.

Sit down and check the front of your thighs, shins, in between your toes, tops of your feet, and under your toenails. Using a hand mirror, check the bottoms of your feet, calves, and backs of your thighs. Also check your buttocks, upper and lower back, backs of your ears and neck, and your genital area.

One of the best times to perform a skin cancer self-screening is after taking a shower or bath. If you check your skin regularly, you will be aware of your skins normal spots and notice if anything starts looking different.

A health care provider or dermatologist may conduct a full-body skin cancer screening following these steps:

How To Detect Skin Cancer

How to Be Smarter About 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.

Read Also: What Are Some Early Signs Of Skin Cancer

How To Perform A Skin Self

Examine your body in a full-length mirror

Examine your body front and back in the mirror, then look at the right and left sides with your arms raised.

Look at your underarms, forearms, and palms

Bend elbows and look carefully at forearms, underarms, and palms.

Look at your legs, between toes, and soles of your feet

Look at the backs of your legs and feet, the spaces between your toes, and the soles of your feet.

Use a hand mirror to examine your neck and scalp

Examine the back of your neck and scalp with a hand mirror. Part hair for a closer look.

Use a hand mirror to check your back and buttocks

Finally, check your back and buttocks with a hand mirror.

Related AAD resources

Should I Have Routine Skin Cancer Screenings

While many routine cancer screenings, such as colonoscopies and mammograms, are recommended when a person reaches a certain age, there are no widely adopted age standards for dermatological screenings. Most primary physicians will perform a quick skin check at a routine physical, but we recommend that those with a higher risk for skin cancer have a thorough skin screening by a dermatologist at least once a year. This includes anyone with:

  • A family history of melanoma in two or more blood relatives
  • Multiple atypical moles
  • Numerous actinic keratoses
  • An organ transplant

Also Check: How To Tell If It’s Skin Cancer

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

  • What should I look for when I do a self-examination of my skin?
  • I have a mole thats getting bigger. Could it be skin cancer?
  • I spent a lot of time in the sun as a child. Should I be checked for skin cancer regularly?
  • My father had skin cancer. Am I more likely to have it, too?
  • I have darker skin. Can I still get skin cancer?
  • How quickly does my type of skin cancer grow and spread?
  • Do I have an increased risk of additional skin cancers?
  • Should I see a skin cancer specialist?

What You Need To Know

How to Check Yourself for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide.

  • 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
  • More than 2 people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour.
  • Having 5 or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma.
  • When detected early, the 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99 percent.

Theres more than meets the eye when it comes to skin cancer, so make sure you know all the facts. You can #SharetheFacts on social media by downloading images from our Skin Cancer Awareness Toolkit. For the latest news, visit our Press Room.

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Get To Know Your Skin

The sooner a skin cancer is identified and treated, the better your chance of avoiding surgery or, in the case of a serious melanoma or other skin cancer, potential disfigurement or even death.

It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.

It’s 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.

Less Common Skin Cancers

Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposi’s sarcoma, mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the oil glands in the skin and Merkel cell carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head, neck, arms, and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body.

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Can Melanoma Be Prevented

You cant control how fair your skin is or whether you have a relative with cancerous moles. But there are things you can do to lower your risk of developing melanoma. The most important is limiting your exposure to the sun.

Take these precautions:

  • Avoid the strongest sun of the day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use broad-spectrum sunscreen whenever youre in the sun.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and cover up with long, loose cotton clothing if you burn easily.
  • Stay out of the tanning salon. Even one indoor tanning session increases your risk of getting melanoma.

Also, be sure to check your moles often . Keep dated records of each moles location, size, shape, and color, and get anything suspicious checked out right away.

Not all skin cancer is melanoma, but every case of melanoma is serious. So now that you know more about it, take responsibility for protecting yourself and do what you can to lower your risk.

You can find more information online at:

What Information Does A Pathology Report Usually Include

Find out if you have cancer

The pathology report may include the following information :

  • Patient information: Name, birth date, biopsy date
  • Gross description: Color, weight, and size of tissue as seen by the naked eye
  • Microscopic description: How the sample looks under the microscope and how it compares with normal cells
  • Diagnosis: Type of tumor/cancer and grade
  • Tumor size: Measured in centimeters
  • Tumor margins: There are three possible findings when the biopsy sample is the entire tumor:
  • Positive margins mean that cancer cells are found at the edge of the material removed
  • Negative, not involved, clear, or free margins mean that no cancer cells are found at the outer edge
  • Close margins are neither negative nor positive
  • Other information: Usually notes about samples that have been sent for other tests or a second opinion
  • Pathologistâs signature and name and address of the laboratory
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    How To Check For 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 15 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 786,826 times.

    Early detection of skin cancer is important and can be lifesaving, especially for certain types of skin cancer such as melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma. It is estimated that 76,380 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2016 and over 13,000 will die from the skin cancer.XTrustworthy SourceAmerican Cancer SocietyNonprofit devoted to promoting cancer research, education, and supportGo to source Given that timing is so crucial to diagnosing and treating skin cancer, you should follow a few simple steps to learn how to detect skin cancer on your skin.

    How To Spot Skin Cancer

    Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. If you know what to look for, you can spot warning signs of skin cancer early. Finding it early, when its small and has not spread, makes skin cancer much easier to treat.

    Some doctors and other health care professionals include skin exams as part of routine health check-ups. Many doctors also recommend that you check your own skin about once a month. Look at your skin in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see.

    Use the ABCDE rule to look for some of the common signs of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer:

    AsymmetryOne part of a mole or birthmark doesnt match the other.

    BorderThe edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.

    ColorThe color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.

    DiameterThe spot is larger than ¼ inch across about the size of a pencil eraser although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.

    EvolvingThe mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

    Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are more common than melanomas, but they are usually very treatable.

    Both basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, or cancers, usually grow on parts of the body that get the most sun, such as the face, head, and neck. But they can show up anywhere.

    Basal cell carcinomas: what to look for:

    Squamous cell carcinomas: what to look for:

    Recommended Reading: What Are The Types Of Skin Cancer

    Why Is An Early Diagnosis Important

    Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer that affects Americans. One in five people in the United States will develop some type of skin cancer by the time they reach age 70.

    The good news is early detection of all types of skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, can greatly improve your chances of being cured.

    Additionally, catching a skin cancer early on could make treatments easier. Smaller, simpler lesions are easier to remove surgically and less likely to result in scarring or disfigurement.

    Its important to pay attention to new or changing skin spots and see your doctor if you notice anything out of the ordinary, notes the ACS.

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    It Affects People Of All Races Genders And Ages Which Is Why It’s Absolutely Critical For Americans To Learn About

    how to find out if you have skin cancer

    A cancer diagnosis can leave you unable to comprehend anything else your doctor says, but it’s important to pay attention to what stage of cancer you have. These growths have a waxy or greasy look and what can we help you find? The condition is easily treatable. It affects people of all races, genders and ages, which is why it’s absolutely critical for americans to learn about. Please confirm that you are not located inside the russian federation the link you have selected will take you. Seborrheic keratoses are benign skin growths that develop from skin cells called keratinocytes. A diagnosis of lung cancer naturally causes some overwhelming emotions, but you don’t have to let those emotions get the best of you. Enter search terms and tap the search button. Skin keratosis, also known as seborrheic keratosis, are harmless, noncancerous growths that appear on the face, neck, shoulders. Information is a powerful weapon against uncertainty and fear, and you can use this to your advantage. Some types of skin cancer are more dangerous than others, but if you have a spot. Skin dermatitis is an umbrella term describing inflammation of the skin. Discovering new growths on your skin can cause your mind to race towards worrying about cancer, but take heart.

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    Skin Cancer Diagnosis Always Requires A Skin Biopsy

    When you see a dermatologist because youve found a spot that might be skin cancer, your dermatologist will examine the spot.

    If the spot looks like it could be a skin cancer, your dermatologist will remove it all or part of it. This can easily be done during your appointment. The procedure that your dermatologist uses to remove the spot is called a skin biopsy.

    Having a skin biopsy is essential. Its the only way to know whether you have skin cancer. Theres no other way to know for sure.

    What your dermatologist removes will be looked at under a microscope. The doctor who examines the removed skin will look for cancer cells. If cancer cells are found, your biopsy report will tell you what type of skin cancer cells were found. When cancer cells arent found, your biopsy report will explain what was seen under the microscope.

    Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Skin Cancer Screening

    Exposure to the ultraviolet rays that come from the sun plays a major role in causing skin cancer. You are exposed to these rays anytime you are out in the sun, not just when you are at the beach or pool. But you can limit your sun exposure and help reduce your risk of skin cancer if you take a few simple precautions when out in the sun. These include:

    • Using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30
    • Seeking shade when possible
    • Wearing a hat and sunglasses

    Sunbathing also increases your risk of skin cancer. You should avoid outdoor sunbathing and never use an indoor tanning salon. There is no safe amount of exposure to artificial tanning beds, sunlamps, or other artificial tanning devices.

    If you have questions about reducing your risk of skin cancer, talk to your health care provider.

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