Skin cancer will affect 1 in 5 Americans and is the most common type of cancer; but thankfully, if detected early, most types can be successfully treated before they spread to other parts of the body. This is why annual full body skin examinations by a trained dermatologist are recommended. All people are at risk of developing cancer, but especially at risk are those with fair complexion, blistering sunburns, tanning bed use, and a family history of skin cancer.
Because of its prevalence, it is recommended that people of all ages and skin types examine their skin on a monthly basis, in addition to annual skin exams with a board-certified dermatologist. Use the ABCDE rule as you examine your full body:
Asymmetry – If you were to draw a line through the center of the mark, the two halves should match. An asymmetrical mole or growth is a warning sign.
Borders – Benign spots or growths have smooth, even borders. Note any uneven edges that appear notched or scalloped.
Color(s) – Most benign marks are one color or shade. Different shades or tones, or even red, blue, or white pigmentation could be a sign of melanoma.
Diameter – Benign moles or spots typically have a smaller diameter. Melanomas tend to have a diameter that is larger than a pencil eraser.
Evolution – Benign moles typically do not change in appearance over time. Any changes in size, color, texture, or another trait should be evaluated by a dermatologist, especially if the mark shows symptoms such as recurrent bleeding, pain, or growth.
There are three main types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer, which often looks like a pimple or skin-colored growth that won’t go away or recurrently bleeds. Typically, basal cell carcinomas are slow-growing cancers that remain local, but will not resolve if left untreated.
- Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is a more aggressive form of skin cancer caused by uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis. This common cancer can look like a scaly red spot or sore that doesn’t heal. This type of skin cancer is faster growing than basal cell and can potentially spread to the lymph nodes without intervention. Actinic keratosies, also known as AKs, are considered pre-cancers and presents as red, crusty, scaly growths. If left untreated, actinic keratosis can develop into SCC.
- Melanoma is the most dangerous, skin cancer that usually looks like a dark mole that is asymmetric, has irregular borders or multiple colors, and is larger than the tip of a pencil. Sun exposure and genetics are two of the biggest risk factors for developing melanoma. Early detection is key for successful treatment outcomes with melanoma, which can be fatal.
With offices in Brentwood and Christian Northeast, Deluxe Dermatology offers a range of powerful non-surgical and surgical modalities to prevent and/or cure you of skin cancer. Non-surgical options include liquid nitrogen, a very cold substance at -198° F, which freezes and kills the malignant cancer cells found in superficial cancers and topical chemotherapy creams, such as 5-fluorouracil or Efudex®. Surgical options include surgical excision, electrodessication and curettage, or referral to a specialized oncologic Mohs surgeon. If you are concerned about your risk for skin cancer, we invite you to contact our office today. We look forward to hearing from you. Remember: early detection of skin cancer is the best chance for prevention and a cure.