Skin cancer is silent, meaning that it is often something you don’t feel or even notice. When thinking about skin cancer, many people might imagine growths, ulcers, or irregular moles. Because of skin cancer’s varying looks, sometimes it is dismissed as a weird mole or skin spot. If it looks odd or irregular to you, a good rule-of-thumb is to get it checked out. A missed opportunity to have it looked at by a professional early on could potentially mean more serious issues in the future.
It starts at home
One of the easiest things you could do in your initial check for skin cancer is searching your body - head-to-toe - for any growth or skin spot that you either hadn’t noticed before or looks irregular to you. If you do happen to find something that seems like it shouldn’t be there or has shown up after long-term UV exposure, we highly recommend meeting with our expert dermatologists to assess the problem area and determine a course of action.
Skin exams are important in identifying cancerous skin areas early on. We use procedures like skin mapping, or medical photography, to detect any signs of skin cancer. When going through the process of a skin exam, it is important to consider your family’s history of skin cancer and your age, as these factors play an important role in determining your vulnerability to skin cancer.
If your family has a history of skin cancer, or you think that skin cancer poses a specific threat to you due to your lifestyle or environment, biopsies are great for examining skin. Skin cancer shouldn’t be a guessing game, so even if you think you might not have it, biopsies are a great way to offer peace of mind. It’s a simple process that identifies skin cancer which helps in determining the right course of action for treatment.
Skin Cancer looks different
Melanoma is a household phrase that many people know about but don’t necessarily have knowledge of. It can grow quickly, and if left untreated, can become life-threatening. Melanoma can spread to different parts of the body, including those that aren’t commonly exposed to UV rays. Because of this, some people might disregard spots that are actually cancerous.
Secondly, melanoma can be raised, looking like a brown or black mole. This form of melanoma, called nodular melanoma, should be treated as soon as possible. This form should be easier to detect because of its features, so if you notice an unfamiliar raised mole that has even coloring, schedule an appointment with your Denver dermatologist for professional guidance.
A good guide to follow is the “ABCDE rule” supported by the American Cancer Society.
- Asymmetry - if you were to imagine a line down the middle, one side is not identical to the other.
- Border - the border of the mark is blurred or ragged.
- Color - Color is inconsistent and can include multiple colors, like brown or black with patches of blue or red.
- Diameter - can range from ⅛’’ to ¼’’ to ½’’. A common sign of melanoma is a mark larger than ¼’’.
- Evolving - the mark is changing in color, shape, or size.
Basal and Squamous cell skin cancer
Other forms of skin cancer that are more common and still very treatable include basal and squamous cell skin cancer. Basal cell skin cancer can be detected on areas of skin that get the most sun and can look like firm pale or yellow areas, reddish and itchy patches, pink or translucent bumps, pink growths with abnormal blood vessel growths, or scar-like lesions.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It can take the form of scaly red patches, wart-like growths, or raised growths that may crust and bleed. Without proper treatment action, these can be dangerous and sometimes deadly. Squamous cell carcinoma can be caused by intense sun exposure and long-term exposure to UV rays, whether they be from the sun or from tanning beds.
Notify your doctor of any concerning growths
Again, it is heavily recommended to perform routine, head-to-toe check-ups to ensure that no new abnormalities have begun growing on your skin. Some things to look out for include:
- New spots or marks on your skin
- Sores that don’t heal or begin to scale and ooze
- The spread of color from the border of the spot to surrounding skin
If you’re unsure of any spots or marks on your body that don’t match other spots on your body, call Colorado Skin Surgery and Dermatology to set up an appointment.