Many know about it, but do you really know what the early signs of skin cancer are and how to look for them? Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and if you know what to look for, you can spot the signs early on. The benefit of finding it early enough, before it has spread, is that it makes skin cancer much easier to treat.
The first and best way to detect the early signs of skin cancer is to go to your doctor who will check your skin during a routine cancer check-up. The second best way to detect skin cancer is checking your own skin about once a month to look for various changes in your skin.
What to Look For
According to the American Cancer Society, you can use the “ABCDE rule” to look for common signs of melanoma, which is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer:
Any part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
Any irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred edges.
Anything that is not the same color throughout which may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
If it is larger than ¼ inch across – approximately the size of a pencil eraser.
If it is changing in size, shape, or color in any way.
There are two additional types of cancers that are more common than melanoma, but not as dangerous: Basal and Squamous cell skin cancers.
Basal cell carcinomas
Generally grow on areas that get the most sun, like on the face, head, and neck, however, they can show up anywhere. What to look for:
• Abnormal, flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
• Slightly raised reddish patches that could be itchy
• Smaller, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown, or black areas
• Light pink growths with raised edges and a lower center area, that could contain abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a wheel
• Any open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal, or that heal and then come back
Squamous cell carcinomas
Tend to grow on areas that are prone to the sun, such as the face, ears, neck, lips, and hands, however, they can show up anywhere. Look for:
• Dry, rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
• Slightly raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
• Any open sores (could have oozing or crusted areas) that won’t heal, or that come back often
• Wart-like growths
Not all skin cancers are this deceptive so if there’s anything you’re concerned about, always consult with your doctor. Other things to watch for include:
• New spots
• Spots that doesn’t look like others on your body
• Sores that doesn’t heal
• Any redness or swelling beyond the border of a mole
• Any kind of itching, pain, or tenderness
• Any oozing, scaliness, or bleeding