What is Skin Cancer?
The more your skin is exposed to the sun, the more you increase your chances of skin cancer. But did you know that even areas that aren’t exposed to the sun can also be affected? It’s true. While skin cancer is more likely to form in areas that see overexposure to the sun, well-covered areas like the palms and genital areas can also be impacted by skin cancer.
So, what exactly is skin cancer? It’s the abnormal growth of skin cells. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Melanoma, the deadliest form of cancer, kills more than 10,000 Americans each year. That makes up 75 percent of cancer deaths in the country. While skin cancer is scary, there is good news. Most forms of skin cancer can be prevented and easily treated.
How Do You Know If a Spot is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer can take on many different forms. There are three common forms, melanoma is the form that is cancerous. Skin cancer that isn’t melanoma is split into two categories – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. These both tend to be low-risk cancers, especially when they are treated early. It’s important to know what each form of skin cancer looks like so you can treat it approximately.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal Cell Carcinoma is a type of can cancer is on the outer layer of the skin. These can appear as a pearly or waxy bump, but they can also appear flat. Often this cancer looks like a scar.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma also forms on the outer layer of the skin in the squamous cells. This often looks like a firm, red nodule. They can also be a flat surface that is scaly.
This is the most dangerous form of cancer. Melanoma usually looks like a large brown spot with dark speckles inside of it. This type of cancer can also form inside a mole that you already have, or it can appear as a small lesion with an abnormal border and sections that appear red, white, blue, or bluish-black. The mole typically changes color, size, feel, or bleeds. They can show up on your palms, soles, fingers, toes, in the lining of your nose, mouth, vagina, or anus.
How Do You Get Skin Cancer and How Can You Prevent it?
Every single one of the cells in our skin has the potential to become cancerous at some point in our lives. While most skin cancer is brought on by skin damage due to sun exposure, skin cancer can form in areas that aren’t exposed to the sun. It’s important to be aware of your skin and the changes that take place so you can protect it. Regardless of what type of skin cancer you have, if it is caught early, cancer treatment can be easy and effective.
Here are some steps you can take to prevent skin cancer:
- Get an annual checkup from your dermatologist.
Having an annual exam done by your dermatologist is a good way to keep up with any changes to your skin. The earlier that cosmetic skin cancer is caught, the better the skin cancer treatment will be. So, any suspicious-looking pimples that won’t go away, abnormal moles, or any other changes to your skin need to be brought up during your dermatologist appointment.
- Do not skip sunblock.
Sunscreen is such an important step for preventing skin cancer. Because skin cancer is most often caused by exposure to harmful UV rays, you need to make sure to protect your skin from the sun. The easiest way to do this is to apply sunscreen and keep reapplying throughout the day. You need to wear sunscreen even if the weather is cloudy because those harmful UV rays can still filter through the cloud cover.
- Stop sunbathing.
Trying to get the perfect sun-kissed complexion? Well, it could come with dangerous consequences. While you think a tan looks good now, you could be damaging the DNA of the cells in your skin, leading to signs of skin cancer. If you plan on being out in the sun, make sure you apply and reapply an SPF of at least 30. Along with sunscreen, sitting under an umbrella and wearing a hat is critical for protecting your skin from the sun.
- Avoid tanning beds.
You’ve probably already heard of the dangers of tanning beds, right? Well, it’s true. The radiation from indoor tanning beds is sometimes stronger than the radiation from the sun. Strong radiation can cause skin cell mutations, which can grow into tumors. Not only are you increasing your chance for skin cancer, but you are also causing your skin to age faster.
- Wear protective clothing.
No one wants a painful sunburn, right? So, keep covered up to prevent getting burnt while also protecting your skin from harmful rays that can cause cosmetic skin cancer. Experts say that sun protection is the most important part of skin cancer and other skin related problem like eczema treatment or prevention. Look into getting sun-protective clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF rating.
- Examine your skin.
Know your skin so you will be able to recognize any new spots. Check your skin once a month, and be sure to look in the hard-to-see areas that don’t generally see the sun because these areas can also develop skin cancer. Pay extra close attention to any moles that are bleeding, burning, itching, or have a hard time healing.
- Follow the ABCDEs
Do you know the ABCDEs of skin cancer? This will help you when you examine your skin. Here are the questions of the ABCDEs of melanoma to ask yourself:
- Asymmetry – Is one half of the mole different from the other half?
- Borders – Do the moles have irregular borders? Are they scalloped or poorly defined?
- Color – Do they have different colors? Some moles have different shades of tan, brown, and black. Sometimes moles can even turn white, red, or blue.
- Diameters – Are the moles the size of a pencil eraser or larger?
- Evolving – Is the mole changing? Is the size, shape, or color different?
Skin Cancer Treatment at the Dermatologist Is there a spot on your body that you’re worried about? Then you’ll want to make an appointment with your dermatologist to get the area looked at. During your appointment, your dermatologist will examine your skin. If there are any lesions that they are worried about, they may do a biopsy to determine if the cells are cancerous or not.