September 20, 2018

Identifying Signs of Skin Cancer

General Health

These days, just about everyone knows about the importance of protecting their skin from exposure to ultraviolet light to lower the risk of developing skin cancer. But how do you identify signs of skin cancer? And what symptoms should prompt a visit to your healthcare provider?

Skin Cancer Risk Factors

Knowing your skin cancer risk factors can help you take steps to protect your skin. Common risk factors include:

  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, especially from the sun or indoor tanning
  • A personal history of sunburns
  • A family history of skin cancer
  • Green or blue eyes; red or blond hair
  • Large numbers of moles
  • Easily sunburned, freckled, or reddened skin
  • Light natural skin color

Spotting Skin Cancer

Spotting skin cancer quickly is important. That’s because treatments are most effective before the cancer has a chance to develop.

The most common sign of skin cancer is a change in your skin. Some potential changes include a new mole, growth, or scar, a sore that is taking too long to heal, or a growth that is getting larger. You should also look for spots that: are rough, bumpy, or scaly; change color over time; don’t heal or go away; or ooze, bleed, or become crusty.

Annual Checkups and Self-Exams

While it is important to ask your doctor to inspect your skin for skin cancer during your annual check-up, knowing how to check for skin cancer on your own will increase your chances of catching it during a treatable stage.

Set aside time at least once a month to check all areas of your skin from head-to-toe using the “ABCDEs”:

The “ABCDEs”

Melanoma is the most dangerous kind of common skin cancer and catching it early can save your life. Melanoma can be easily confused for a mole or birthmark, but the ABCDE guidelines describe how to tell the difference — and may also help you spot other types of skin cancer. The ABCDEs stand for:

A: Asymmetry – one side of the spot does not mirror the other

B: Border – the edges of the spot are jagged, blurred, or uneven

C: Color – the spot has different shades of black, brown, pink, blue, or white

D: Diameter – the spot is growing or is wider than a ¼ inch (the width of a pencil eraser)

E: Evolving – the spot has changed over the past few weeks or months

If you think you may have any of these signs of skin cancer, see your healthcare provider right away, or contact the specialists at Fort HealthCare Dermatology for a screening appointment.