Your skin is an amazing organ that protects you from the elements, helps regulate body temperature, and serves as a barrier for harmful bacteria and viruses. Like other parts of the body, the skin can suffer if not cared for properly. More specifically, exposure to natural UV light like the sun or artificial UV light like in tanning beds can harm the skin. In some instances, UV exposure can lead to skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer with Caucasians and men over age 50 having the greatest overall risk. However, it’s important to remember that anyone can develop melanoma and other forms of skin cancer.
Annual physicals and self-exams are proactive steps you can take to identify skin cancer early. Early detection is the best way to mitigate the damage and threat of skin cancer. To make it easier to stay vigilant about skin cancer, we’ve put together a list of symptoms that you should keep in mind. Remember, always talk with your doctor if you experience these or other symptoms related to your skin.
Your skin and immune system work together to heal common skin irritations and wounds. If you notice a rash, wound, or other skin condition that doesn’t get better or goes away and then comes back, contact your doctor. Healing challenges can be indicative of skin cancer.
Moles are one of the visible indicators of skin cancer. Moles that are greater than ¼ inches in diameter are more likely to be melanoma. Moles that are smaller than this can also be melanoma in some instances. It’s important to keep a close eye on the size of your moles when doing your self-exams.
As mentioned, it’s important to do self-exams of your skin and moles. Normal moles are circular with defined edges. Cancerous may look like they have blurred or jagged edges along with an irregular shape.
A mole that is multiple colors or a mole that is very dark may be an indication of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, moles that are indicative of skin cancer can also have patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
Other Skin Abnormalities
Moles aren’t the only way that skin cancer manifests itself. Remember, rashes, sores, bumps, nodes, and other skin abnormalities can be a warning sign of cancer. Check with your doctor if you notice any abnormalities with your skin, whether the skin condition is painful or not.
An Important Reminder
Many people that develop skin cancer do not develop any other symptoms. If you notice a skin abnormality, that’s all the evidence you need to call your doctor. Prevention and early detection are the most powerful tools available to avoid and successfully treat skin cancer.
Your skin works hard to protect you. Return the favor by avoiding exposure to UV light, wearing sunscreen daily, and doing regular self-exams to check for skin abnormalities. Risk factors for skin cancer include: fair complexion, family history, excessive sun exposure, severe sunburns as a child. Contact your Primary Care Physician if you have concerns. Here are some if you don't have one.