How To Spot The Signs Of Skin Cancer
New spots, sores, ulcers, or patches of skin that bleed easily, or cuts that don't seem to heal – these are all possible signs of skin cancers. But how do you know if you’re dealing with some other skin problem or a cancer? Learn to recognize the characteristic “ABCDE” that defines a melanoma, the translucent appearance and fragile skin of a basal cell carcinoma, and the wart-like crusty look of a squamous cell carcinoma. This will help you spot the problem early and get treatment in time.
Skin cancer is diagnosed in 9,500 people every single day in the United States alone, making it the country’s most common form of cancer. In fact, the sobering statistic that one in five Americans are likely to develop this form of cancer should be enough to make everyone more alert and aware.1 So how do you spot this abnormal growth of skin cells?
Types Of Skin Cancer: What You Should Know
Of all the variants of skin cancer, the most common in the United States are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas, followed by melanomas. All of these can be caused by sunburn or UV ray exposure. While the former are more common, melanomas are considered more dangerous.2 About 5.4 million nonmelanoma skin cancer cases were detected in 2012 in the United States. Estimates predict around 161,790 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2017 in the country.3
How To Recognize Basal Cell Carcinomas: Signs And Symptoms
Basal cell carcinomas, a nonmelanoma skin cancer, tend to develop in parts of your body that are exposed to sunlight. Here’s how you can tell if you have one. Most basal carcinomas take one of these forms4:
- Flat yellow patch of skin: A patch of skin that’s paler than the surrounding area, often yellow and not unlike a scar.
- Raised reddish patch: This may also have some associated itchiness.
- Open sores: These sores refuse to heal or seem to heal before coming right back again.
- Pink growths: These are lower in the middle and have edges that are raised. You may also notice the blood vessels in this area spread out like spokes from the center.
- Pearly bumps: These could be red or pink and sometimes have little portions that are black, blue, or brown. The skin here is shiny and translucent like a pearl.
Watch Out For Fragile Skin
This form of skin cancer leaves the skin in that area quite fragile. So if you find yourself developing a bleed after a minor injury like a nick from shaving, you need to be watchful. Keep an eye out to see that it heals properly and doesn’t develop any of the other signs. Any cuts should heal in about a week – especially minor ones from shaving. If you’re concerned, go straight to your doctor to have it checked out.
Signs Of Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common form of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma tends to occur more in light-skinned people though dark-skinned people are also susceptible. Watch out for these signs:5 6 7
- Thick, rough, scaly patches of skin
- Red patches, growths, or lumps
- Wart-like appearance
- Open sores with a crusted surface and a raised border
- Hard horny cap on the bump
- Scaly appearance
- Very tender to the touch and bleeding easily if you scratch or bump them
Know Your Melanoma Alphabet: Signs To Watch Out For
For easy recall, the medical community has come up with an easy-to-remember acronym “ABCDE” of symptoms or signs of melanoma, considered the deadliest.8
- A = Asymmetry: Melanomas are not symmetric, so each half will look different.
- B = Border: Unlike a harmless spot or mole, the edges tend to be poorly defined. The border is usually irregular and scalloped.
- C = Color: These melanomas have varied colors from one region to the next. It could go from white, shades of tan, to brown, black, and even blue or red.
- D = Diameter: Look for spots greater than 6 mm. However, be warned that there are also melanomas that are smaller.
- E = Evolving: If the skin spot/lesion/mole looks different from all the others on your body, there are chances it could be a melanoma. Watch for changing shape, size, and color.
You should also be alert to sores that refuse to heal.
Changes To Existing Moles: A Warning Sign
Melanomas can sometimes develop in moles or in dark spots that resemble moles. Watch for changes like these to existing moles9:
- Pigment spreading beyond the boundary of the mole into the skin surrounding it.
- Swelling/redness beyond the outline of the mole.
- Changes in how the surface of the mole looks. Any scaliness, bleeding, itchiness, oozing, pain, or tenderness are all cause for concern.
- Appearance of a new bump or lump on the mole.
References [ + ]
|1, 3.||↑||Skin Cancer. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|2.||↑||What is skin cancer? CDC.|
|4, 6.||↑||Signs and Symptoms of Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers. American Cancer Society.|
|5.||↑||Warning Signs and Images. Skin Cancer Foundation.|
|7.||↑||Signs and symptoms of skin cancer. Macmillan Cancer Support.|
|8.||↑||What to look for: ABCDEs of melanoma. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|9.||↑||Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma Skin Cancer. American Cancer Society.|