Observe Melanoma Awareness Month by learning the early signs of melanoma and other skin cancers and getting tips for prevention and detection.
Did you know that May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month? Everyone needs to do what they can to protect against skin cancer!
Do you know the signs of skin cancer and what to look for to know whether it’s time to see the doctor about that mole? Read on to learn some of the most basic signs that it could be skin cancer!
What is Skin Cancer and How Do I Spot It?
Cancer is a disease where the body’s cells grow in an uncontrolled way. These cells grow in clusters and if not dealt with can disrupt major body functions and lead to death in some cases.
Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is one of the leading causes of skin cancer. There are 3 major types:
Non-Melanoma Skin Cancers
The first two major types fall under the umbrella of non-melanoma skin cancers. They are both generally not life-threatening. They have a low incidence of metastasis. That means they do not usually spread to other organs or become other forms of cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC forms in the lower level of the epidermis (your top outer layer of skin.) It forms most commonly in areas that receive the most sun, like your head, shoulder, neck, face, and back. The majority of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnoses are BCC.
How to spot it:
- You may find a small pearly lump
- You may find a dry, scaly patch of pink skin
BCC often does not come with symptoms and does not grow quickly or spread to other parts of your body.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is much less common than BCC and comprises less than a 3rd of non-melanoma skin cancers. Unlike BCC, it forms in the upper layer of the epidermis, though it can appear in many of the same areas as BCC. SCC can grow quickly and should be addressed as soon as spotted.
How to spot it:
- You may find a red, scaly patch of thickened skin
- You may find a lump that is rapidly getting bigger
- It may appear as a sore throat that is not healing
- It may be tender to the touch
If you notice any unusual changes to your skin, it is always advised to see a doctor.
Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer and is the most dangerous. It usually appears on areas that have been exposed to sun, but in rare cases can appear inside the eyes or on parts of the body that do not get sun exposure.
Melanoma is dangerous because of its tendency to spread to the lymphatic system, which can cause it to spread throughout the body and can advance to the point of needing radiation or chemotherapy.
The warning signs of melanoma are often centered around changes developing with an existing mole, or the appearance of a new mark on the skin.
How to spot it:
- An existing mole changes color or becomes multi-colored or blotchy
- An existing mole grows in size
- An existing mole takes on an irregular shape
- An existing mole develops raised areas that protrude from the skin
- There is itching or bleeding of the spot or mole
- You develop dark areas beneath fingernails or toenails, or on membranes around the mouth, vagina, or anus
It is important to remember that new moles commonly develop on children and adolescents, and during pregnancy. Adults who discover they have developed a new spot should seek medical attention.
Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month: Learn How to Stay Safe
People with fairer skin are at a higher risk than those with dark skin, but we all are at risk when we don’t take care of our skin. There are steps you can take to help protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun:
- Opt for shade, especially during the peak sun hours between 10 am and 4 pm
- Don’t let yourself get a sunburn
- Avoid tanning. You should never use UV tanning beds
- Apply sunscreen. Use an SPF 15 UVA/UVB sunscreen every day for high exposure areas like your face. When planning to be outside for longer periods of time, use an SPF 30 UVA/UVB sunscreen that is waterproof and apply it to your whole body
- Use sunscreen in the winter too. It’s not just the summer sun that gives off UV rays, winter sun can damage your skin just as badly
- Newborns should be kept out of the sun, and sunscreen used only on children 6-months-old or older
- Keep an eye on your skin. Watch for changes and perform examinations regularly
- See a dermatologist once a year. They can perform a professional skin exam to make sure you catch any cancer early
With these tips, you can help to avoid skin cancer and keep your skin happy and healthy.
If You Think You May Have Skin Cancer
The mission of skin cancer and melanoma awareness month is to get you thinking about the health of your skin. If you see any of the signs we discussed above, don’t wait, get yourself checked out.
We have a network of over 730 talented doctors who can assist in getting the care you need, no matter what ails you. To find a doctor for your needs, click here!