What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer, also known as skin neoplasia, is the most common type of cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet light, which is in sunlight, is the main cause.
The most common warning sign of skin cancer is a change in the appearance of the skin, such as a new growth or a sore that will not heal. Unexplained changes in the appearance of the skin lasting longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
What are the risk factors for skin cancer?
The most common risk factors for skin cancer are as follows.
Ultraviolet light exposure, either from the sun or from tanning beds. Fair-skinned individuals, with hazel or blue eyes, and people with blond or red hair are particularly vulnerable. The problem is worse in areas of high elevation or near the equator where sunlight exposure is more intense.
- A chronically suppressed immune system (immunosuppression) from underlying diseases such as HIV/AIDS infection or cancer, or from some medications such as prednisone or chemotherapy
- Exposure to ionizing radiation (X-rays) or chemicals known to predispose to cancer such as arsenic
- Certain types of sexually acquired wart virus infections
- People who have a history of one skin cancer have a 20% chance of developing second skin cancer in the next two years.
- Elderly patients have more skin cancers.
What Should I Look for When Examining My Moles?
Examine your skin with a mirror. Pay close attention to areas of your skin that are often exposed to the sun, such as the hands, arms, chest, and head.
The following ABCDEs are important signs of moles that could be skin cancer. If a mole displays any of the signs listed below, have it checked immediately by a dermatologist:
- Asymmetry: One half of the mole does not match the other half
- Border: The border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or irregular
- Color: The mole has different colors or it has shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red
- Diameter: The diameter of the mole is larger than the eraser of a pencil
- Evolving: The mole appears different from others and/or changing in size, color, shape
Skin Cancer Screening Schedule
If you have developed new moles, or a close relative has a history of melanoma, you should examine your body once a month. Most moles are benign (non-cancerous). Moles that are of greater medical concern include those that look different than other existing moles or those that first appear in adulthood.
If you notice changes in a mole’s color or appearance, you should have a dermatologist evaluate it. You also should have moles checked if they bleed, ooze, itch, appear scaly or become tender or painful.
If you would like more information about skin cancer screening and when should you be screened talk to the dermatologist expert’s physician.