Recognizing the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives, making it the most common form of cancer in the United States. When it’s diagnosed early, skin cancer has a high treatment success rate.

Skin cancer is often easy to identify, because it’s on the outside of your body. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma are the main types of skin cancer, and each one has unique characteristics. 

Timothy Scott Beck, MD and our team at Life Point Medical offer dermatology services that include skin cancer checks and treatment to keep your skin healthy. Read on to learn more about the warning signs of skin cancer. If it’s time for your annual skin survey, book an appointment with us today.

Warning signs of basal cell carcinoma

BCC is one of the most common types of skin cancer. It can form anywhere on your body, but it’s most common on areas of skin that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, head, ears, neck, and arms.

BCC often appears as a shiny lump on skin. The lump might be pink or red, with brown, black, or blue areas. Some growths have visible blood vessels coming out from them. In some cases, BCC lesions look flat and pale, like a scar. 

Warning signs of squamous cell carcinoma

Like BCC, SCC is a common type of skin cancer. It often develops in areas exposed to the sun, like the head, neck, and arms. While BCC looks shiny or pearly, SCC often looks rough and scaly.

SCC generally appears as a lump on your skin. The lump may be firm and red, or flat with dry, scaly patches. The area may crust over, or look like a sore that doesn’t heal. Some types of SCC produce growths that look like warts.

Warning signs of melanoma

Melanoma is the rarest form of skin cancer, but it can be the most severe. This type of skin cancer often starts in moles. While most moles aren’t cancerous, the best way to check your skin for cancer is to regularly examine any moles for changes. 

Dr. Beck uses the “ABCDE” assessment to determine if a suspicious mole could be cancerous. Things to look for that may indicate melanoma are:

Asymmetry

Cancerous moles are more likely to be asymmetrical. While benign moles are generally round or oval, melanoma can make moles irregularly shaped, making one side appear different from the other.

Border

Most benign moles have defined borders. Melanoma lesions often have ragged, irregular, or fading borders. When a mole or lesion has an irregular border, it could be a warning sign of skin cancer.

Color

Cancerous moles are often more than one color, while noncancerous moles are all one color. Shades of brown, tan, black, white, red, or blue, could indicate the presence of cancer. Additionally, if a mole has changed color over time, it should be checked.

Diameter

Most benign moles are less than ¼ of an inch in diameter. Larger moles, particularly those that are larger than a pencil eraser, could be a warning sign of cancer. 

Evolving

Moles that change in size, shape, or color could indicate cancer. If a mole that used to be flat is now elevated or raised, it could be caused by melanoma growth. Any mole or skin lesion that begins to itch or bleed should be examined by the doctor. 

Whether or not you have areas of concern, the best way to ensure your skin is healthy is getting an annual skin survey. Dr. Beck and our team thoroughly evaluate your skin with a visual exam. If any areas are suspicious, you can get early treatment to eliminate cancerous growths.

Skin cancer is very common, but treatment success rates are high when it's identified early. Call our office to learn more or request your skin survey appointment online today.

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