Being familiar with your skin is key to the early detection of skin cancer. If you notice changes in the pattern of your freckles, blemishes, moles, or other marks on your skin, it is important to keep an eye on them. Dermatologists recommend performing a self-examination at least once a month to spot these abnormalities. Certain areas of the skin are difficult to see. In this case, someone should ask for assistance or even use a handheld mirror. New or changing spots should be checked out by professionals to ensure that they are not dangerous. Certain symptoms may be a sign of skin cancer.
Skin cancer cells reveal themselves in a variety of ways. Basal Cell Carcinoma develops because of sun damage. Oftentimes, these tumors will go unnoticed because they grow at a slow rate and rarely spread to other areas of the body. It is the most common type of skin cancer and should be treated as soon as possible. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is the second most common form of skin cancer and is known for spreading to nearby lymph nodes and internal organs. Therefore, this cancer can be very dangerous and potentially fatal. There are early signs for both forms of cancer.
Basal Cell Carcinoma
- This cancer typically presents itself in areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun. These areas include the head, neck, and face. That is not to say that Basal Cell doesn’t occur elsewhere in the body.
- Basal Cell Carcinoma often looks like a firm, flat, pale, or yellow growth on the skin. They may also be reddish, pink, translucent, blue, brown, black, or even pearly in color.
- Growths with an abnormal blood vessel pattern may also be a sign of cancer.
- This cancer is known to be fragile. For instance, the affected skin area may bleed or exist as an open sore on the skin. If you notice a growth on your skin that is resistant to healing, oozes, or is crusted over, it is important to get it checked out right away.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
- Much like Basal Cell, Squamous Cell Carcinoma develops in sun-exposed areas of the body. Other places to be observant of are your ears, lips, and the back of your hands. Rarely will this cancer develop in the genital area, but it is important to inspect this area as well.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma often appears as red patches that are rough or scaly in texture. They may look like raised lumps or wart-like growths.
- Like Basal Cell Carcinoma, this type of cancer could emerge as an open sore that won’t heal.
Risk Factors of Cancer:
There are risk factors that increase the likelihood of getting cancer. Excessive sun exposure and smoking are the greatest factors contributing to the risk of skin cancer that can be minimized or avoided. However, there are also risk factors that cannot be changed. For example, a family history of skin cancer increases the individual’s risk. Knowing your family history can be helpful so you can take extra precautions to lower your risk or detect cancer early on.
Factors that are associated with increased risk of skin cancer are:
- UV sun exposure
- Fair or light-colored skin
- Gender (men are more likely)
- Age (being older)
- Exposure to chemicals
- Personal history of cancer
- A weakened immune system
- Recent exposure to radiation
- Certain syndromes or diseases (Basal Cell Carcinoma syndrome and HPV)
- Severe skin injury or inflammation
Although there is no way to prevent skin cancer altogether, there are ways to lower your risk. It is essential to protect your skin from harmful sun rays. You can do this by seeking shaded areas, wearing proper clothing and sunscreen, and avoiding tanning beds. You should avoid harmful chemicals, such as arsenic, which are known to increase the risk of skin cancer. This chemical can be found in pesticides, medicines, and well water. Certain occupations have an increased risk of arsenic exposure as well.
As many people know, smoking has been linked to cancer and should be avoided. Taking care of your body and doing things to strengthen your immune system plays a significant role in helping your body to fight the development of cancer cells. One should take extra precautions when engaging in sexual intercourse to protect themselves from HIV, AIDs, and other infections that weaken the immune system. Not only is the risk of getting cancer greater for those with a compromised immune system, but treatment is often less affective in these cases.
It is important to perform skin self-examinations often to detect changes early on. This is vital in order to minimize treatment and improve the overall outcome. In addition to self-checks, you should have your skin checked by a professional every 3-6 months, depending upon your risk factor and history. This is especially important for those who are at a higher risk of skin cancer.
If you notice moles, bumps, or pigmented spots on your skin grow, change, or bleed, it is essential to have them checked out by a dermatologist as soon as possible. Whether you have a concern, or it is time for a check-up, Dr. Gurgen can evaluate your case and provide you with the best treatment method. He is an experienced dermatologist, who specializes in Mohs Surgery, which is a proven, effective treatment for both Basal and Squamous Cell cancers. Contact our office for an appointment today.