In America alone, 1 in every 5 people develops skin cancer and every hour, one person dies of skin cancer. These alarming statistics make it essential for us to understand skin cancer and take measures to prevent it. Since increased UV radiation is the primary cause of skin cancer, most of us are at risk. Along with taking preventive steps, it’s also important that we run a simple self-check regularly to spot any symptoms of skin cancer early on. To know what to look for in a self-check examination, here are some of the warning signs of skin cancer.
The ABCDE Test To Detect Cancer
Although moles are usually harmless, they are major signs of melanoma or skin cancer. Any new growth on your body could be cancerous, so get it checked. Also, look for changes in the existing moles on your body. If it’s changed in color, size, or appearance, it could be a cause for concern. Unhealed lesions that bleed, itch should also be checked for.1 2 Here are the ABCDEs of what you need to look for when you’re examining moles.
- Asymmetry: Malignant moles are not symmetrical
- Border: A malignant mole is usually borderless, unlike a benign mole that usually has a well-defined structure.
- Color: A cancerous mole could be of different shades (like dark brown, black, white, or blue). A benign mole is usually brown.
- Diameter: A mole that is cancerous is larger than a benign mole.
- Evolving: If a mole has evolved or changed in appearance, then its likely to be malignant.
However, some malignant moles or sores might not fit the above description, so it’s always better to get a suspicious mole checked by a medical practitioner.3
How To Do A Detailed Full-Body Examination?
Things you need
A full-body mirror, well-lit room, chairs, a comb, a hand mirror, and a blow dryer.4
- Stand naked in front of a full-body mirror. Make sure you are in a room that is brightly lit.
- Begin by examining your face for moles, dark spots, or open sores. Carefully examine your nose, lips, mouth, and ears. Use a hand mirror, if needed.
- Move on to your head. Using a comb, carefully partition your hair into two parts. Test your scalp for odd patches or moles. Now, use a blow dryer to thoroughly examine the scalp on the sides of your head – especially the area around your ears. Ask a friend to help, if required.
- Examine your hands. Pay close attention to your palms, wrists, fingers, fingernails, elbows, and armpits.
- Test your neck and chest for moles.
- Check your breasts for any mole or lumps. Lift each breast to inspect it thoroughly. Also, remember to carefully check your nipples.
- Check your stomach, navel, legs, knees, and your pubic region. Closely examine your crotch and your inner-thigh area.
- Now, turn around so that your back faces the mirror. Using a hand mirror, proceed to examine the skin on your back. Pay extra attention to sensitive areas like your buttocks, lower back, and behind your knees.
- Prop yourself on a chair and raise your foot. Placing it on your lap, look closely at your feet – especially your heels, toes, and soles.
Types Of Skin Cancer
1. Actinic Keratoses (AK)
Actinic Keratoses are precancerous growths that eventually proceed to serious forms of skin cancer. Commonly occurring in people with light or fair skin, AK usually develops after the age of 40. It usually forms on the head, neck, hands, and forearms.5
2. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
BCC is flesh-colored and often looks like a pimple or a pearl-like bump on the skin. Frequent sun exposure and sun tanning are causes of basal cell carcinoma. It’s mostly seen on the head, neck, and arms, although it can occur anywhere on the body.
3. Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Commonly seen in individuals with darker skin, SSC initially occurs as a scaly, bumpy patch on the skin. A sign of squamous cell carcinoma is the healing and re-opening of sores. It appears mainly on the ear, face, neck, arms, chest, and back – parts of the skin that are most exposed to the sun.
The gravest form of skin cancer, melanoma begins as a mole or a growth on the skin. If left untreated or undetected, it can lead to death.
How To Prevent Skin Cancer?
The sun’s harsh UV rays are primarily the cause of skin cancer, although genetic predisposition could increase your risk. To prevent skin cancer, it’s essential to protect yourself from the UV rays. Wear clothes that cover your body, don’t go out in the harsh sun, wear hats and sunglasses, avoid tanning beds and intentional tanning, and most importantly, regularly use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.67
Skin cancer can be deadly and can affect anybody, even those who aren’t biologically predisposed to it. To treat skin cancer effectively, its early detection essential.
|↑1||Do you know your ABCDEs? Skin Cancer Foundation.|
|↑2||Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics. Skin Cancer Foundation.|
|↑3||What Should I Look for on a Skin Self-Exam? American Cancer Society.|
|↑4||Step by step self-examination. Skin cancer foundation.|
|↑5||Types of skin cancer. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑6||What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer? Centers for disease control and prevention.|
|↑7||Jerant, Anthony F., Jennifer T. Johnson, Catherine Demastes Sheridan, and Timothy J. Caffrey. “Early detection and treatment of skin cancer.” American family physician 62, no. 2 (2000).|