As we grow older we find all types of bumps, moles, dry patches, skin tags and what not growing on our bodies. Could one of these actually be the start of the big “C”?
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, with the incidence of skin cancer on the rise. Currently, it is estimated that one in three new cases of cancer is skin cancer. Fortunately, it is also one of the most curable – if caught early.
Following is some valuable information to help you know how to spot it early.
Please remember it is up to the experts to make a diagnosis – these are just some signs that should not be ignored.
The Big Three
Melanoma: This most dangerous form of skin cancer starts in the melanocytes (the cells that make melanin, the pigment that colors our skin and hair). If left untreated, tumors can grow deep into the skin and metastasize — spreading the cancer to other parts of the body. Because Melanoma starts with moles, experts recommend minding your ABCDE’s, that is:
Asymmetry: one half of the mole looks different than the other in shape, color or texture.
Borders: irregular borders; that is edges that are notched, blurred, or jagged.
Color that is uneven: most moles are shades of tan and browns. However, trouble moles may have grey, red, pink, blue or black and blue patches.
Diameter: Melanomas can be small, but most are more than 6 millimeters or 1/4 inch in diameter — about the size of a pea or the eraser on your pencil.
Evolving: moles do go through harmless changes throughout our lives, but a change could signal trouble. If you spot changes, don’t panic — but do talk to your doctor.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) also occurs in the epidermis but often appears as a scaly patch or sores that crusts over or bleeds. It’s the second most common type of skin cancer, and can spread in some cases.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) is a slow-growing tumor that starts in the cells at the base of or top layer of skin called the epidermis. BCC is the most common kind of skin cancer and often appears as a bump on the skin. While it doesn’t usually metastasize, it can affect surrounding tissues and cause disfigurement.
There are other non-melanoma skin cancers that are less common. Here is what you should watch for:
– A lump that is firm and red, or a lump that is small, smooth, waxy or shiny and pale.
– A lump or sore that bleeds or forms a crust or scab.
– A rough and scaly patch that may be red or brown in colour.
– A flat red spot that is rough, dry and scaly. The patch may itch, or hurt to touch.
However, if you do have any of these signs, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have skin cancer. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your skin and talk to your doctor if you see any suspicious signs or changes.
Signs You Are At A Higher Risk
– Complexion: people with light-coloured skin, hair and eyes are more likely to develop skin cancer. If you burn before you tan, you could be at higher risk.
– Age: the risk increases with age. Skin cancer is most likely to show up after age 40.
– Genetics: if you have a family history of melanoma, you’re more likely to develop it — especially if you have atypical moles.
– number of moles: more moles could mean a higher risk for melanoma, especially if you have more than 50 or have some large or atypical ones.
– Skin Trauma: in some cases, scars, burns or exposure to radiation or chemicals can contribute to non-melanoma skin cancers — as can chronic inflammation of the skin.
– Weakened Immune System: due to an organ transplant, chemotherapy or an illness like lymphoma for HIV/AIDS could contribute or an auto immune disease like Vitiligo which attacks the pigment in your skin and hair.
If you have any of these it doesn’t mean you will get skin cancer; just be more aware of your body and take precautions as in proper SPF sunscreen.
Have a Great Day
Additional sources: Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Skin Cancer Foundation, Health Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada, MedlinePlus.com, Melanoma International Foundation, PubMed Health U.S. National Cancer Institute
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