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When To Worry About Skin Cancer

The Ugly Duckling Method

When to Worry About a Mole

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.

The Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer

Skin cancers — including melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma — often start as changes to your skin. They can be new growths or precancerous lesions — changes that are not cancer but could become cancer over time. An estimated 40% to 50% of fair-skinned people who live to be 65 will develop at least one skin cancer. Learn to spot the early warning signs. Skin cancer can be cured if it’s found and treated early.

How Common Is It

Overall, skin cancers are the most common cancers in the United States. But melanoma is less common than the other two major types, basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma.

Each year about 91,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with melanoma of the skin, according to the American Cancer Society. By comparison, about 3.3 million are diagnosed with one or more basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas.

Also Check: What Is The Most Aggressive Skin Cancer

Symptoms On Black And Brown Skin

On dark skin, it may be easier to feel a lesion than see it. People with black skin may be more likely to find a lesion on a part of the body that has little exposure to the sun, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Skin cancer can affect people with any skin color, but those with brown or black skin are more likely to receive a diagnosis at a later stage. This may be due to a lack of awareness of how skin cancer appears on skin colors other than white.

Anyone who notices an unusual change in their skin should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

The medical community has developed two ways to spot the early symptoms of melanoma. This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer.

A person can use the ABCDE method or the ugly duckling method.

What You Can Do

Can you spot which moles are deadly? The skin cancer signs ...

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.

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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:

What Increases My Risk Of Skin Cancer

  • Family history of melanoma-in first degree relatives like parents, siblings or children
  • Personal history of any type of skin cancer- Basal Cell Cancer, Squamous Cell Cancer or Melanoma.
  • Precancerous actinic keratoses
  • Red hair
  • History of severe sun damage or sun burns
  • History of tanning booth use- even if only a few times! This is magnified if you continue to use them.
  • Now that we know what can increase your risks for skin cancer, lets talk more about what the warning signs of skin cancer look like.

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    Freckle Or Skin Cancer When You Should Be Worried About Your Skin Spots

    Do you have brown spots on your skin?

    If youre like most people, your answer is yes.

    You either have freckles, moles, birthmarks, or a combination of all three. We dont think much about them. Theyre just a part of the state of our skin. We assume if it was cancer, it would look like it.

    But do you know what skin cancer really looks like? Could you tell the difference between a freckle or skin cancer and are you willing to risk it?

    Risk Of Further Melanomas

    Mole Misdiagnosis: When It’s Really Stage IV Skin Cancer

    Most people treated for early melanoma do not have further trouble with the disease. However, when there is a chance that the melanoma may have spread to other parts of your body, you will need regular check-ups. Your doctor will decide how often you will need check-ups everyone is different. They will become less frequent if you have no further problems. After treatment for melanoma it is important to limit exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. As biological family members usually share similar traits, your family members may also have an increased risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancers. They can reduce their risk by spending less time in the sun and using a combination of sun protection measures during sun protection times. It is important to monitor your skin regularly and if you notice any changes in your skin, or enlarged lymph glands near to where you had the cancer, see your specialist as soon as possible.

    Also Check: Does Amelanotic Melanoma Blanch When Pressed

    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

    • Dome-shaped growth

    • 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

    • Itches

    • Bleeds

    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.

    Tips For Screening Moles For Cancer

    Examine your skin on a regular basis. A common location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the “hidden” areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special attention to moles if you’re a teen, pregnant, or going through menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.

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    When Should I Be Concerned About Unexplained Weight Loss

    Your weight can fluctuate for various reasons. A life-changing or stressful event can cause you to lose weight unintentionally. Even having an especially busy schedule for a while can cause a temporary change in your food intake and activity level, causing you to lose a few pounds.

    There arent any firm guidelines. But some experts follow the rule of thumb that an unintentional weight loss of more than five percent of your body weight in a period of six months to a year calls for a medical evaluation.

    Skin Cancer Warning Signs: When To Worry About That Mole

    Here are some things you should know about Cancer

    Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, but its also one of the easiest to treat. Early diagnosis is crucial for successful treatment, so its important to know the warning signs. Routinely checking your skin enables you to identify problems and seek prompt treatment.


    Getting to know your skin helps you to spot problems early on.

    Knowing what is healthy for your skin makes it easier to notice any changes. Check your skin once a month, including the areas that are usually covered by clothing.

    Cancerous moles and lesions can occur anywhere on the body, not just on the skin that is exposed to sunlight. Skin cancer in men occurs most commonly on the back, while in women it often appears on the legs.

    New Moles and Growths

    A new mole, lesion or growth on the skin can be the first sign of skin cancer. However, the majority of new moles will be completely harmless. Make a note of any new moles and take a photograph, using a ruler or other object to show the size and scale of the growth. Check the growth again a couple of weeks later to see if there are any suspicious changes.

    Skin Changes

    Changes to existing moles should always be checked by a doctor, even if youve had the mole for a long time. A mole that gets bigger, changes shape or changes color could be a sign of melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer.

    Also Check: Does Skin Cancer Make You Lose Hair

    What The Microscope Reveals

    If any moles look worrisome, your dermatologist will choose just one to sample for study under the microscope.

    Well look for the mole that stands out the most what we call the ugly duckling mole, she explains.

    The microscope will reveal whether it is mildly, moderately or severely atypical .

    What we find under the microscope will guide how aggressive well need to be in checking your moles, says Dr. Lopez.

    We may say, OK, youve got a higher chance of developing cancer based on what we see, so well need to see you every six months instead of every year or every two years.

    If any lesion on your skin has one or more ABCDE traits or if it bleeds, scabs, comes and goes, or refuses to heal see a dermatologist promptly.

    Types Of Skin Malignancies:

    • Melanoma the least common form of skin cancer, but responsible for more deaths per year than squamous cell and basal cell skin cancers combined. Melanoma is also more likely to spread and may be harder to control.
    • Nonmelanoma malignancies:
      • Squamous cell cancer the second-most common skin cancer. It’s more aggressive and may require extensive surgery, depending on location and nerve involvement.
      • Basal cell cancer the most common form of skin cancer. It is rarely fatal but can be locally aggressive.

    These skin malignancies are typically caused by ultraviolet radiation from exposure to the sun and tanning beds.

    Recommended Reading: How To Identify Basal Cell Carcinoma

    What Are The Symptoms Of Skin Cancer

    Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

    A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, or a change in a mole.external icon Not all skin cancers look the same.

    For melanoma specifically, a simple way to remember the warning signs is to remember the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma

    • A stands for asymmetrical. Does the mole or spot have an irregular shape with two parts that look very different?
    • B stands for border. Is the border irregular or jagged?
    • C is for color. Is the color uneven?
    • D is for diameter. Is the mole or spot larger than the size of a pea?
    • E is for evolving. Has the mole or spot changed during the past few weeks or months?

    Talk to your doctor if you notice changes in your skin such as a new growth, a sore that doesnt heal, a change in an old growth, or any of the A-B-C-D-Es of melanoma.

    Why People Of Color Need To Worry About Skin Cancer Too

    Mole Mapping & Skin Cancer Screening Check For Suspicious Moles At Rosshall Hospital Glasgow

    Whileskin cancer is a health concern for many people, the odds are you are more likely to worry about it if youre fair-skinned.

    Those with darker complexions often feel that their skin tone protects them from the worst of the suns rays. However, the reality is that people of color are still at risk of skin cancer. Even worse, youre more likely to have a negative outcome if you develop it.

    Why is skin cancer a misunderstood risk for people of color? Lets look closer at this condition and the ways you can better protect your skin.

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    How Can A Mole Lead To Cancer

    UV light from the sun or using sunbeds can change the structure of a mole and increase the chance of it becoming cancerous. This is known as melanoma.

    “Melanoma is one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer, which can spread to other organs in the body. The most common sign of melanoma is a change in an existing or new mole. The mole may also be larger than normal and can sometimes be itchy or bleed,” reveals Wong.

    Of course, not all new, enlarged or changing moles will mean skin cancer. But you should keep an eye on them just in case.

    “Making a habit of examining your own skin on a monthly basis will help to detect any abnormal growths quickly. I always advise my patients to check their skin after they have had a bath or a shower, in a well-lit room with a full-length mirror,” Wong adds.

    Jarvis says: “Malignant melanoma can affect adults of all ages, and accounts for 90% of skin cancer deaths despite being about 20 times less common than other skin cancers. The biggest risk factor is skin damage, particularly from burning and especially in childhood. A combination of pale skin and a hot climate is particularly risky. Most moles are nothing to worry about, but see your doctor immediately if a mole changes or you don’t pass the ABCDE test.”

    Less Common Types Of Skin Cancer

    Kaposi sarcoma

    This is a rare form of skin cancer that develops in the skins blood vessels and causes red or purple patches. It often attacks people with weakened immune systems, such as individuals with AIDS, or in people taking medications that suppress their immune system, such as patients whove received organ transplants.

    Merkel cell carcinoma

    Merkel cell carcinoma causes firm, shiny nodules that occur on the surface or just beneath the skin and in hair follicles. Merkel cell carcinoma most often appears on the head, neck and torso.

    Sebaceous gland carcinoma

    This rare but aggressive cancer develops in the skins oil glands. Sebaceous gland carcinomas which usually appear as hard, painless nodules can develop anywhere, but frequently occur on the eyelid, where they can be mistaken for other eyelid problems.

    Recommended Reading: Can Squamous Cell Carcinoma Metastasis

    Risk Factors For Melanoma

    Youll also want to see a dermatologist if you have lots of moles, she says, or any of these risk factors for melanoma:

    • A history of indoor tanning.
    • Fair skin or skin that easily burns, freckles or reddens.
    • A personal history of skin cancer.
    • A family history of melanoma.
    • Heavy sun exposure at work or play.
    • Lots of sunburns early in life.
    • Blue or green eyes.
    • Blonde or red hair.
    • Certain types of moles.

    The beauty of dermatology is that we can quickly see if theres a problem on the surface and then easily sample the skin to study under the microscope, says Dr. Lopez.

    If melanoma is found, dermatologists can treat it in a variety of ways, including surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and targeted therapy.

    Brown Spots And Freckles

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    Freckles are small flat brown marks that most often appear on the face and other exposed parts of the body in the summer months. They are most often seen in fair-skinned people with red hair but can be seen in people with darker skin colour too. Freckles are formed when the skin is exposed to the sun. Freckles are harmless, but if one starts to look funny compared to others then its best to get it checked out.

    Larger, flat, brown spots on the face and hands that start to appear in middle-aged people, known as age spots or liver spots, are properly called solar lentigines. These occur in people of all skin types if they have spent too much time exposed to the sun. Solar lentigines are harmless too but because they can sometimes turn into melanoma it is good to get them checked out, especially if they start to change colour or shape.

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