Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer—when you find and treat it early, however, skin cancer treatments provide a great recovery rate. The key to catching it early is to know what to look for. Check your moles and other skin spots regularly for the “ABCDE” symptoms:
- Asymmetry—A mole, birthmark, or spot with an irregular shape
- Border—A mole’s edges look ragged or blurred (not clearly defined)
- Color—Several shades or colors in one spot, rather than one color (brown, black, red, pink, white—even blue)
- Diameter—A spot larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser
- Evolving—Sudden changes in a mole’s shape, color, border, or size
Use a mirror to look at your back, backs of your legs, soles of your feet, and all other areas for suspicious spots. If you have any concerns about a spot, even if it seems small, call your Anderson dermatologist immediately at (864) 716-0063 or your Easley dermatologist at (864) 855-2052.
It’s also important to understand the different types of skin cancer, even before it becomes cancerous.
Actinic Keratoses (AK): Sun Spots
Also called solar keratoses or “sun spots,” they indicate years of sun damage. They are pre-cancerous and should be monitored by your Anderson and Easley dermatologist. People at highest risk for AK include people using indoor tanning or who have spent much time outside without proper sun protection.
Actinic keratoses look like a crusty or scaly patch on the skin, ranging from pin-head to quarter size. They may be darker or lighter than surrounding skin. After sun exposure, these spots may feel tender or itchy. AKs often appear on the ears, nose, scalp, cheeks, shoulders, forearms, tops of feet, backs of hands, lips, or anywhere that has seen frequent, unprotected sun exposure.
Early, proactive treatment can stop AKs from progressing into skin cancer. Call Anderson at (864) 716-0063 or Easley at (864) 855-2052 immediately if you have any spots you think may be AKs.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It also appears on the most frequently sun-exposed parts of the body. It’s most common in fair-skinned patients, but patients of any complexion may notice:
- A pearly or flat, scar-like bump
- Something flat and firm, with brown, black, yellowish or even blue coloration
- Pink growths with a lower center and raised edges
- Abnormal growth of blood vessels spreading outward
- Open, oozing sores that refuse to heal or that keep coming back
Although this is the slowest growing of the different types of skin cancer, prompt treatment is critical to preventing it from spreading and becoming deadly.
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer. It can spread quickly to other parts of the body, so knowing the signs and catching them quickly are critical to survival. Use the ABCDE method of examining all your moles and spots on your skin and be aware of:
- A mole that suddenly changes shape, diameter, or color
- Any new mole or dark spot that suddenly appears on the skin
If diagnosed and treated early, melanoma patients can recover. If melanoma spreads to the lymph nodes, however, the survival rate goes down to 63% over the next five years. As it continues to spread, the survival rate drops significantly.
The most important thing to do to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from sun damage always. If you see any suspicious spots on your skin, don’t ignore them! Call your Anderson dermatologist for a diagnosis and treatment at (864) 716-0063 or your Easley dermatologist at (864) 855-2052. It could save your life!
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer and shares many of the same characteristics as basal cell carcinoma (see above), particularly its causes: unprotected, extended sun exposure. Prompt treatment can cure this type of spot and prevent it from spreading. Here’s what to look for:
- A scaly or red, firm bump that won’t go away
- An oozing sore that takes a long time to heal or that reopens easily
Avoid Sun Damage, Prevent Skin Cancer: 10 Easy Steps
Unprotected, frequent sun exposure and indoor tanning beds are notorious causes of skin cancer. Preventing sun damage to your skin can significantly decrease your odds of developing skin cancer, so follow these tips to shield your skin from harmful UV rays daily.
- Never use indoor tanning beds.
- Use sunscreen daily. Choose a broad-spectrum product with an SPF of at least 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Ask us for recommendations!
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside; re-apply every 2 hours (more often if sweating or swimming).
- Do not use expired sunscreen.
- Stay in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to avoid the most intense UV exposure.
- Stay in the shade if your weather app shows a UV index of 10 or higher.
- Wear long-sleeved shirts, full-length trousers, and a wide-brimmed hat. Try clothing with built-in SPF protection!
- Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV absorption levels.
- Keep babies under 6 months completely shaded, and follow all the advice above for your children too.
- You can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day or if you’re near reflective surfaces like sand, water, or snow—so don’t skimp on sunscreen, regardless of the season!
Ask your dermatologist about the most effective sunscreens and sun protection measures for your skin type, age, and health condition. Understand that people with certain diagnoses or who take certain medications may be more susceptible to sun damage. Schedule a consultation about sun safety with your Anderson dermatologist today at (864) 716-0063 or your Easley dermatologist at (864) 855-2052.