Signs You Might Have Skin Cancer
The month of May is the traditional start of the outdoor living season here in Michigan, and with the return to gardens, parks, and beaches comes the increased risk of excessive ultraviolet light exposure. May is also, quite appropriately, Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Not all skin cancers are due to sun exposure, however, so even if you faithfully use high-SPF sunscreens and protective clothing, you may still be at risk. Skin cancer can be quite survivable, however, particularly with early detection.
Understanding types of skin cancer and knowing the three signs that may indicate its active will help you know when its time to have that spot or mole checked out by the health care professionals at Lakeshore Ear, Nose and Throat Center.
Signs And Symptoms Of Skin Cancer
So how do you know if you have skin cancer? The best policy is to pay attention to your skin, and have regular check-ups with your Doctor or dermatologist. Below are some signs and symptoms to look out for.
Melanoma skin cancer typically appears as a new growth on your skin, or changes in an existing mole. Things to watch out for include:
- your moles shape changes the border changes or becomes irregular it gets larger or swollen
- your mole becomes irritated it could become sore, itchy, bleed, or crusty it might just feel different than it did before
- the color of your mole changes non-cancerous moles are usually one shade of brown or tan your mole develops multiple and changing colors, including blue and black
- as an adult, a new mole appears that wasnt there before
Non-melanoma skin cancers vary with their symptoms and degree of seriousness, but more often will appear as a spot or sore on your skin. Signs to watch out for include:
- growths or lumps that werent there before
- red patches on your skin
- any type of sore that doesnt heal within 4 weeks
- nodules on the skin
A Mole Is Itching Or Bleeding For No Reason
“Another sign is if a mole itches or bleeds for no reason,” Arthur said. “It’s one thing if you catch the mole on your backpack strap and then it bleeds. That is pretty clear-cut trauma and that’s not worrisome. But if a mole just bleeds and you don’t recall injuring the area, or if a mole is persistently itchy, that would always be something to have checked.”
Melanomas can happen on parts of your body that never see the light of day, Garner explained.
“That is not something I think the public has been made very aware of,” she said.
“Although sun exposure is definitely a risk factor for melanoma, there are also some genetic mutations that can lead to it,” Arthur added. “And so melanoma can occur in the retina, it can occur on the vulva of women, it can occur in the penis in men. You can see it in the peri-anal area. It can occur under a nail or on the bottom of your foot, even.”
The moral of the story: When you perform skin checks, don’t neglect the parts of you that aren’t sun-exposed. Arthur recommends checking your skin once monthly, using a full-length mirror and a hand mirror. Ask a loved one to help you check the parts you can’t see yourself.
The Abcdes Of Melanoma
The first five letters of the alphabet are a guide to help you recognize the warning signs of melanoma.
A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves dont match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
C is for Color. Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.
D is for Diameter or Dark. While its ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, its a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser or larger. Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.
E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
If you notice these warning signs, or anything NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin see a dermatologist promptly.
A is for Asymmetry
D is for Diameter or Dark
E is for Evolving
E is for Evolving
Skin Cancer Can Look Like Many Things Therefore People Can Go Long Periods Of Time Without Recognizing That They Have A Skin Cancer Says Dr Steven Musick Md A Board Certified Dermatologist Who Runs Musick Dermatology Llc In Swansea Il Which Provides State
Not only can skin cancer mimic many benign conditions such as pimples and skin barnacles, but a tumor can develop in areas that are difficult to inspect or that are not considered during a persons self-skin exam.
For example, it would be difficult for one to examine their scalp unless theyre bald. Inside the ears is another hard-to-visualize location.
And then there are areas that people wouldnt think to check, such as between their butt cheeks, inside their belly button, between their toes, the soles of their feet and even the pupils of their eyes.
Yes, melanoma can grow in the pupils and go unnoticed for long periods of time.
Melanoma, along with squamous cell carcinoma, can also pop up internally, including within the genitals, mouth, nose and lungs.
Another factor that influences how long a person can have skin cancer and not know it is where they live.
If they live in a Third, and especially Fourth, World nation, they can have a basal cell carcinoma that goes undiagnosed for many years due to lack of skin cancer awareness campaigns and adequate skin cancer screenings.
However, this type of tumor will continue progressing, though very slowly it wont stop growing just because its untreated.
Also Check: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Survival
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.
When Do Signs And Symptoms First Appear
Typically, cancer signs and symptoms first appear when the cancerous tumor or mass has grown large enough that it begins to push against nearby organs and tissue, blood vessels, and nerves.
This can lead to pain, a change in how the nearby organs function, or both. A brain tumor pressing against the optic nerve will affect vision, for example.
Some cancers are fast moving, such as liver and pancreatic cancers. Prostate cancer, however, is usually slow moving. This is why many older men with prostate cancer forego treatment theyre more likely to die with prostate cancer than because of it.
Screenings for certain cancers should be part of your normal preventive healthcare. These include cancers of the:
Your age, sex, family history, and your own medical history will dictate when routine screenings should begin and how often they should be done.
If youre concerned about symptoms associated with various cancers, then you shouldnt hesitate to see your doctor. You can connect to a physician in your area using the Healthline FindCare tool.
Read Also: Skin Cancer Prognosis
What You Need To Know About Early Detection
Finding melanoma at an early stage is crucial early detection can vastly increase your chances for cure.
Look for anything new,changing or unusual on both sun-exposed and sun-protected areas of the body. Melanomas commonly appear on the legs of women, and the number one place they develop on men is the trunk. Keep in mind, though, that melanomas can arise anywhere on the skin, even in areas where the sun doesnt shine.
Early detection makes a difference
99%5-year survival rate for patients in the U.S. whose melanoma is detected early. The survival rate drops to 66% if the disease reaches the lymph nodes and27% if it spreads to distant organs.
When Should I See My Doctor
Its important to check your own skin regularly to find any new or changing spots.
See your doctor or dermatologist straight away if you notice any changes to your skin, such as:
- an ugly duckling a spot that looks or feels different to any others
- a spot that changes size, shape, colour or texture over time
- a sore that doesnt go away after a few weeks
- a sore that itches or bleeds
See the ABCDE of skin cancer, above.
Recommended Reading: Invasive Breast Cancer Prognosis
Read Also: How Long Does It Take For Melanoma To Spread
Supplementing Your Diet With With Vitamin B3 May Benefit The Skin
The key chemical you need to know about is called nicotinamide .
Nicotinamide or niacinamide is a variant of vitamin B3. Its found in dietary sources such as meat, fish, nuts, grains and mushrooms. It is the precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide , essential for many physiological reactions that help cells obtain energy.
If you dont get enough vitamin B3, you can get the disease pellagra. Pellagra affects organs with high cellular energy requirements such as the brain, skin and gut, manifesting with what medical professionals sometimes call the 4 Ds dermatitis, diarrhoea, dementia and death.
Recently, emerging evidence suggests supplementing your diet with with vitamin B3 may have a range of benefits, particularly for the skin.
Nicotinamide has been shown to replenish cellular energy, enhance DNA repair, act as an anti-inflammatory and modulate some of the local immunosuppression caused by ultraviolet radiation.
Much of the work in this field has been led by Professor Diona Damian, Head of Dermatology at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. Building on from her pioneering laboratory work in the field, she went on to lead the landmark ONTRAC trial published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2015.
Similar improvements have been observed in a small studies of renal transplant patients a group well known to be at increased risk of developing skin cancer.
What Will Happen After Treatment
Youll be glad when treatment is over. Your doctor will want you to check your skin at least once a month. It will be very important to protect yourself from getting too much sun.
For years after treatment ends, you will see your skin cancer doctor. At first, your visits may be every few months. Then, the longer youre cancer-free, the less often the visits are needed. Be sure to go to all of these follow-up visits. Your doctor will ask about symptoms and check you for signs of the cancer coming back or a new skin cancer. Other exams and tests may also be done.
Having cancer and dealing with treatment can be hard, but it can also be a time to look at your life in new ways. You might be thinking about how to improve your health. Call us at 1-800-227-2345 or talk to your cancer care team to find out what you can do to feel better.
You cant change the fact that you have cancer. What you can change is how you live the rest of your life making healthy choices and feeling as good as you can.
Early Detection Makes A Difference
Today, its very common for people not to know if they have skin cancer or a mole. This fact worsens the evolution of the disease by not being approached in time. Therefore, if you have several moles, a strange lesion or a spot that appears spontaneously, you should go as soon as possible to your trusted doctor.
In the same way, a routine self-examination of the skin is essential, and its one of the most important measures to treat skin cancer in its initial stages. In addition, the use of adequate sun protection and follow-up exams with the dermatologist are associated with a lower risk of skin cancer.
- Goldstein A, Tucker M. Dysplastic Nevi and Melanoma. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers. 2013 22: 528-532.
- Black S, MacDonald-McMillan B, Mallett X et al. The incidence and position of melanocytic nevi for the purposes of forensic image comparison. Int J Legal Med. 2014 128: 535543.
- Chen J, Stanley RJ, Moss RH, Van Stoecker W. Colour analysis of skin lesion regions for melanoma discrimination in clinical images. Skin Res Technol. 2003 9:94-104.
- Halem M, Karimkhani C. Dermatology of the head and neck: skin cancer and benign skin lesions. Dent Clin North Am. 2012 56:771-90.
- Bahnson AB, Kondratuk KE, Anderson SM. Skin Cancer Education in the Rural Salon. S D Med. 2019 72:267-271.
- Jones OT, Ranmuthu CKI, Hall PN, Funston G, Walter FM. Recognising Skin Cancer in Primary Care. Adv Ther. 2020 37:603-616.
Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented
Skin cancer is almost entirely preventable. Making a part of your life, avoiding sunburn, and checking your skin regularly will help prevent further damage to your skin.
Protect your skin from UV radiation and help prevent skin cancer by:
- slipping on sun-protective clothing: cover your shoulders, neck, arms, legs and body.
- slopping on sunscreen thats rated SPF 30+ or higher, broad-spectrum and water resistant.
- slapping on a hat that shades your face, neck and ears.
- seeking shade under trees, umbrellas and buildings from direct sunlight and reflective surfaces.
- sliding on sunglasses that wrap around your face to protect your eyes and surrounding skin.
- staying away from sun lamps, solariums or sunbeds, which emit dangerous levels of UV radiation.
UV radiation from the sun varies depending on time of day, season, where you live and cloud coverage. Protect your skin whenever UV Index levels are above 3. Use Cancer Council Australias free SunSmart app to check the UV Index for your area any time.
Most Australians will get enough vitamin D even with sun protection at UV level 3 or above. Babies and children should be protected from the sun, since they are particularly vulnerable to UV radiation harm.
While using fake tanning cream isnt harmful to your skin, it offers no protection from UV radiation. You still need to protect yourself from the sun.
What Are Some Of The Lesser
Some of the less common skin cancers include the following:
Kaposi sarcoma is a rare cancer most commonly seen in people who have weakened immune systems, those who have human immunodeficiency virus /AIDS and people who are taking immunosuppressant medications who have undergone organ or bone marrow transplant.
Signs and symptoms of Kaposi sarcoma are:
- Blue, black, pink, red or purple flat or bumpy blotches or patches on your arms, legs and face. Lesions might also appear in your mouth, nose and throat.
Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare cancer that begins at the base of the epidermis, the top layer of your skin. This cancer starts in Merkel cells, which share of the features of nerve cells and hormone-making cells and are very close to the nerve ending in your skin. Merkel cell cancer is more likely to spread to other parts of the body than squamous or basal cell skin cancer.
Signs and symptoms of Merkel cell carcinoma are:
- A small reddish or purplish bump or lump on sun-exposed areas of skin.
- Lumps are fast-growing and sometimes open up as ulcers or sores.
Sebaceous gland carcinoma
Sebaceous gland carcinoma is a rare, aggressive cancer that usually appears on your eyelid. This cancer tends to develop around your eyes because theres a large number of sebaceous glands in that area.
Signs and symptoms of sebaceous gland carcinoma are:
- A painless, round, firm, bump or lump on or slightly inside your upper or lower eyelid.
Screening For Skin Cancer
Again, the best way to screen for skin cancer is knowing your own skin. If you are familiar with the freckles, moles, and other blemishes on your body, you are more likely to notice quickly if something seems unusual.
To help spot potentially dangerous abnormalities, doctors recommend doing regular self-exams of your skin at home. Ideally, these self-exams should happen once a month, and should involve an examination of all parts of your body. Use a hand-held mirror and ask friends or family for help so as to check your back, scalp, and other hard-to-see areas of skin. If you or someone else notices a change on your skin, set up a doctors appointment to get a professional opinion.
Recommended Reading: Malignant Breast Cancer Survival Rate
Warning Signs Of Basal Cell Carcinoma That You Could Mistake As Harmless
Warning sign: A pink or reddish growth that dips in the centerCan be mistaken for: A skin injury or acne scar
A pink or reddish growth that dips in the center
The BCC on this patients cheek could be mistaken for a minor skin injury.
Warning sign: A growth or scaly patch of skin on or near the earCan be mistaken for: Scaly, dry skin, minor injury, or scar
A growth or scaly patch of skin on or near the ear
BCC often develops on or near an ear, and this one could be mistaken for a minor skin injury.
Warning sign: A sore that doesnt heal and may bleed, ooze, or crust overCan be mistaken for: Sore or pimple
A sore that doesnt heal, or heals and returns
This patient mistook the BCC on his nose for a non-healing pimple.
Warning sign: A scaly, slightly raised patch of irritated skin, which could be red, pink, or another colorCan be mistaken for: Dry, irritated skin, especially if its red or pink
A scaly, slightly raised patch of irritated skin
This BCC could be mistaken for a patch of dry, irritated skin.
Warning sign: A round growth that may be pink, red, brown, black, tan, or the same color as your skinCan be mistaken for: A mole, wart, or other harmless growth.
A round growth that may be same color as your skin
Would you recognize this as a skin cancer, or would you dismiss it as a harmless growth on your face?
Read Also: What Is Large Cell Carcinoma