Knowing the ABCDs of Skin Cancer
Early detection is always best no matter what type of cancer you are dealing with. By giving yourself a monthly self-exam of your skin, you will become familiar with the appearance of your skin and any moles and spots you have, so you will notice if any changes happen to occur. When you are performing your self-exam, check all moles for the ABCDs of skin cancer:
A. Asymmetry: one half doesn’t match the other half in size, shape, color, or thickness
B. Border irregularity:the edges are ragged, scalloped or poorly defined
C. Color: the pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown, and black are present. Dashes of red, white, and blue add to the mottled appearance.
D. Diameter: while melanomas are usually greater than 6mm in diameter (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, they can be smaller.
If you notice a mole different from others – even if it is small – or one that changes, itches, or bleeds, consult a dermatologist right away.
Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer falls into one of the following four categories:
Actinic Keratoses (AK), or “pre-cancers”
The first sign of skin cancer is Actinic Keratoses (AK). Considered “pre-cancers,” AKs are small, pink scaly spots most commonly found on ears, face, neck, chest, arms and hands from the repeated, cumulative effect of sun exposure. AKs can be treated by a number of therapies including cryotherapy (freezing), topical chemotherapy (fluorouracil, solaraze™ gel, aldara™), Photodynamic Therapy (PDT), chemical peeling, curettage and other surgical procedures. Proper use of sunscreens and sun protective clothing can help prevent actinic keratosis, even after extensive sun damage has already occurred.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is the most common form of skin cancer and appears on sun-exposed areas of the body (head, neck, hands, chest, and upper back). Basal cell carcinomas usually do not spread quickly and, in the beginning, are similar in appearance to a pimple a pimple, blemish or bug bite that does not heal within 2-3 months. Untreated, they can grow, invade the skin, and bleed, causing considerable local damage to the skin and surrounding structures. Detected early, BCCs are curable. Depending on the type of BCC, options for treatment include chemotherapy, excisional surgery, and curettage.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
SCC is the second most common skin cancer, found primarily in those who are fair-skinned, and who sunburn easily. This cancer can appear as a scaly red patch or a crusty, hard bump on sun-exposed areas of the head, neck, ears, lips, arms or legs. This form of cancer can invade the skin and metastasize (spread to other parts of the body) if left untreated.
Melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. Melanoma may appear suddenly or begin in or near a mole that a person may have had for many years. People of all skin types can develop melanoma. Since melanoma begins in the pigment producing cells called melanocytes, they are typically dark brown or black in appearance. In rare cases melanoma can be red or light brown in color.
It is important to know the appearance of the moles on your own body to detect changes early. Performing a skin self-exam every month and seeing a dermatologist annually are your best bets for prevention of melanoma. Any changing mole should be examined by a dermatologist, as early melanoma is curable!
Along with sun exposure (especially intense intermittent blistering sunburns), heredity plays a role in risk factors for developing melanoma. If you have many moles and/or a family history for melanoma, you are at increased risk for developing melanoma. See your dermatologist regularly and remember the ABCDs of melanoma.
Article Source: DermCenterTX