May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month; here’s what you need to know to keep that spot from coming in hot as skin cancer.
Skin Cancer is the most common form of human cancers, affecting more than 1 milion Americans every year and it doesn’t discriminate – all ethnicities are affected! There are also different types, but most fit into these three categories: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
What’s the difference between the types?
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. They tend to be slow-growing tumors that rarely metastasize (spread).
- Raised pink or pearly white bumps
- Pigmented bumps that look like moles with a pearly edge
- Any sores that continuously heals and re-opens
- Flat, scaly scars with a waxy appearance
Squamous Cell Carcinoma, just like basal cell carcinoma, is diagnosed through biopsy. It can develop anywhere, including inside the mouth and on the genitalia; however it most commonly appears on the scalp, face, ears and back of hands.
- Fish-scaly skin – crusted or scaly with an inflamed red-base
- The spot being tender when touched
Melanoma is the least common type of skin cancer, but by far the most worrisome. Melanomas spread rapidly to internal organs and the lymph system, making them quite dangerous. It is the most common in young adults, ages 25-29.
- Large brown spots with darker speckles
- Dark lesions on the plams of hands, soles of feet, fingertips, toes, mouth, nose or genitalia
- Translucent, pearly and dome-shaped growths
- Existing moles that begin to grow, itch or bleed
- Brown or black streaks under the nails
How do I stay in the clear?
Prevention is key!
Since roughly 90% of non-melanoma cancers are attributable to ultraviolet radiation (UV Rays), protecting your skin is a most when you’re out in the sun.
- Stay out of the sun as much as possible during “peak” hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
- Wear protective clothing when you’re going to be out in the sun
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Use sunscreen year-round with a SPF 15 or greater
*Make sure your sunscreen also covers both UVA and UVB rays – look for the term “broad spectrum”
- Check your skin monthly and contact your dermatologist if you notice any changes
- Schedule regular skin examinations. It is advised that adults over 40 get an annual exam with a dermatologist