How to spot skin cancer and prevent it
Skin cancer awareness has become increasingly important as the number of cases continues to rise, even among celebrities like Hugh Jackman, who was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma in 2017, which was successfully treated (and who recently had a scare). This surge in cases, particularly among young individuals, is alarming, with melanoma skin cancer rates skyrocketing by 70% since the 1990s for those aged 25 to 49 years old. No one is immune to this disease, underscoring its prevalence and the need for vigilance. Early detection remains crucial, as it can lead to successful treatment in the majority of instances. There’s a lot you can do to keep your skin protected, including learning about the different types of skin cancer and what to look out for!
What are the different types of skin cancer?
While many different forms of skin cancer exist, there are three main types you should know about:
- Basal cell carcinoma. This is the most common form of skin cancer. It develops from abnormal, uncontrolled growth of basal cells. Basal cell carcinoma tends to grow slowly, which means it’s the most curable of all the skin cancers and causes minimal damage when caught early. Basal cell carcinoma can look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, and shiny bumps.
- Squamous cell carcinoma. This is the second most common form of skin cancer. It is caused by the accelerated, abnormal growth of squamous cells. Squamous cell carcinoma is usually curable when caught early. It can appear as scaly red patches, open sores, rough, thickened skin, or raised growths with a central depression.
- Melanoma. This is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. It develops when pigment-producing cells mutate and continue to divide uncontrollably. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, and signs include the spread of pigment from the border of a spot into the surrounding skin and changes in the surface of a mole, such as scaliness, oozing, and bleeding.
Of the three main types of skin cancer, melanoma is by far the most aggressive and found in areas of the body most exposed to the sun.
The ABCDEs of skin cancer
To catch skin cancer early and help prevent it from spreading, you should check your moles once a month and schedule a skin cancer check with a dermatologist once a year. Look for these signs when examining your moles:
- Asymmetry. Suspicious moles are asymmetrical. This means that if you draw a line through the center of a mole, the two halves will look different in shape, color, or both.
- Border. Cancerous moles often have edges that are uneven, scalloped, or blurry.
- Color. A normal mole is one color throughout. But a cancerous mole may contain different colors or different shades of a color.
- Diameter. Most cancerous moles are roughly the size of a pencil eraser or larger.
- Evolution. If a mole or lesion is changing, this could indicate skin cancer.
If you do notice any suspicious moles, schedule an appointment to see a dermatologist right away for a follow-up. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and your skin’s health is a top priority!
How can you prevent skin cancer?
In addition to conducting monthly skin checks to protect against skin cancer, it’s also important to:
- Stay out of the sun during the peak hours of 10 am to 4 pm
- Wear protective clothing when out in the sun (protective clothing can be cool, too)
- Sport a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses (which are totally in right now)
- Use broad-spectrum sunscreens year-round with an SPF of 30 or greater, using different formulas for your face and body
- Avoid tanning beds, which can increase your risk of skin cancer
In conclusion, the rising incidence of skin cancer emphasizes the importance of prevention and early detection. With melanoma rates skyrocketing, particularly among young individuals, it is crucial to practice sun safety, conduct regular self-examinations, and schedule yearly skin cancer screenings with a dermatologist. By remaining vigilant and proactive, you can reduce the risk of skin cancer and keep your skin happy and healthy. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to skin cancer – adopting safe sun practices and knowing the warning signs can make all the difference in safeguarding your health.