What Are The Warning Signs Of Skin Cancer?

Most people have moles, and while they are usually harmless, they can sometimes become cancerous.  Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US.  Because of this, it’s vital to learn about skin cancer prevention and be able to recognize the warning signs of skin cancer.   

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the abnormal growth of skin cells.  Skin cancer can occur on any part of the body and is easy to spot because it generally starts in an area exposed to the sun.  Skin cancers often form on the face, neck, arms, chest, and hands.

Types Of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC),  squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma.  BCC and SCC are more common than melanoma but not as dangerous.  Melanoma can quickly spread to other organs of the body if it’s not detected early.  Skin cancer is often caused by damage done to the DNA in the skin cells by the UV rays of the sun. 

What are the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer?

The skin is constantly changing, and it’s not unusual for new marks and blemishes to appear occasionally, but there are times when you need to take a closer look.  It is vitally important to pay attention to any unusual patches or growths because skin cancer often starts as a nodule or raised bump.   

The best way to spot signs of skin cancer is to examine yourself regularly, preferably every month.  When doing a self-check, it’s necessary to inspect your entire body and all the spots on your skin. 

If you notice changes in skin growths such as moles and bumps or new ones suddenly emerge, it is best to have them checked.

Irregular patches or atypical moles that bleed or ooze may also signal skin cancer. 

Here are some other warning signs of skin cancer:

  • A lesion that does not heal
  • A lesion that is painful or itches.
  • A mole that changes size, shape, or color 
  • A lesion that looks abnormal or has an uneven border

In addition to regular self-checks, skin cancer screenings can also help identify signs of skin cancer.  

What Is A Skin Cancer Screening?

A skin cancer screening is a total-body examination to assess skin health.  Skin cancer screenings are usually performed by a medical professional who is qualified to recognize the signs of skin cancer and can therefore detect early signs of the disease.  Skin cancer can be successfully treated when it is detected early.

How Often Should You Get A Skin Cancer Screening?

People with a low risk of developing skin cancer can have skin cancer screenings annually or every few years.   However, people at a higher risk should get screenings more often, preferably every 6-12 months.   

Regular screenings are necessary because without a comprehensive examination it’s often impossible to tell if new lesions on the skin are harmless.

If a suspicious lesion or other spot is identified during a skin cancer screening, your doctor will do a skin biopsy.  

What Is A Skin Biopsy?

A skin biopsy is a minimally invasive procedure in which a portion of a suspicious lesion is removed and sent to the lab for testing.  The skin biopsy will determine if the irregular lesion is skin cancer. 

Skin Cancer Prevention

Minimizing sun exposure can lower your risk of skin cancer.  It’s also essential to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against the UVA and UVB rays of the sun.  Eating a healthy diet and not smoking can also reduce skin cancer risk. 

Once you know the warning signs of skin cancer, you should check yourself regularly and reach out to your doctor if you notice any changes to moles or lesions.

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