Do You Have Skin Cancer?

#1 What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells. It often develops on areas of the body that are exposed to the sun’s rays.<!–more–> Skin cancer affects people of all colors and races, but those with light skin who sunburn easily are placed at a higher risk.

Skin cancer is a disease of the body’s skin cells usually as a result of skin cell damage. It begins in the outside layer of the skin, known as the epidermis. Skin cancer mostly occurs when the skin has received too much of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UVR) which damages these cells. The cells then change and skin cancer can form.

There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from the sun’s UV radiation. Whilst we have to remember that there are some rare forms of skin cancer which cannot be found early on, the good news is that most skin cancers can be prevented or found early.


#2 The Facts

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million people are diagnosed annually. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.

One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes and an estimated 76,690 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the US in 2013 alone. A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns at any age. Nearly 30 million people tan indoors in the U.S. every year. Two to three million of them are teens. Among people aged 18 to 29 who have ever used a tanning bed and were diagnosed with melanoma, 76 percent of those melanoma cases were due to tanning bed use.


#3 What Are The Different Types?

It is important to understand what the different types of skin cancer are and what they look like. A Basal Cell Carcinoma, or BCC for short, are the most common form of skin cancer. The growth tends to be quite slow, taking a period of months to years, and only rarely do these cancers spread throughout the body.

Nodular and nodular-ulcerative BCCs are the most common form of BCC, and they start as round, hard, red or red-grey pearly bumps, which may continue to grow larger and ulcerate if left untreated. A pigmented BCC is similar to the nodular-ulcerative BCCs, however it has darker pigmented areas. These are sometimes confused with melanoma, a much more serious type of skin cancer. Superficial BCCs occur on the trunk of your body and look like a small red patch. A morphoeic BCC looks like a firm yellow-white scar-like area, however they usually require more extensive treatment.

A Squamous Cell Carcinoma In Situ, also known as Bowen’s Disease, are usually red, scaly marks and they are quite common on the lower legs and feet. The second most common form of skin cancer is the Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and these usually form a scaly, quickly growing pink lump or wart-like growth, which may also break down, crust, bleed and ulcerate.

Finally, the most serious type of skin cancer is the malignant melanoma which develops from an existing mole or appears as a new brown, red or black spot which


#4 Self-Examination

he Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone practice monthly head-to-toe self examination of their skin, so that they can find any new or changing lesions that might be cancerous or precancerous. <!–more–>Skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable.

All you will need is a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, 2 chairs or stools, and a blow dryer. First, examine your face, especially the nose, lips, mouth, and ears. Use one or both mirrors to get a clear view of any part you cannot see, such as the backs of your ears. Thoroughly inspect your scalp, using a blow dryer and mirror to expose each section to view. Get a friend or family member to help, if you need assistance.

Check your hands carefully, including both the palms and backs, between the fingers and under the fingernails. Continue up the wrists to examine both the front and back of your forearms. Standing in front of the full-length mirror, begin at the elbows and scan all sides of your upper arms, including your underarms. Next, focus on the neck, chest, and torso. With your back to the full-length mirror, use the hand mirror to inspect the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and any part of the back of your upper arms. Still using both mirrors, scan your lower back, buttocks, and backs of both legs.

Next, sit down and prop each leg in turn on the other stool or chair. Use the hand mirror to examine the genitals. Check front and sides of both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes and under toenails. Don’t forget to examine the soles of your feet and heels!


#5 Learn Your ABCDE’s

Look at your moles and imagine that there is an imaginary line drawn down the middle. If the mole is asymmetrical, or uneven, on either side then this is one of the warning signs you should approach your doctor about. <!–more–>A is for asymmetry.

B is for border. The borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven and the edges may even be scalloped or notched.

C is for color. Having a variety of colors is another warning signal and a number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red, blue or some other color.

D is for diameter. Melanomas usually are larger in diameter than 1/4 inch or 6 mm, but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.

E is for evolving. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting all points to danger.


#6 The “Ugly Duckling” Sign

What exactly is the “ugly duckling” sign? The ugly duckling model is based on the observation that moles in the same individual tend to resemble one another. Malignant moles, on the other hand, contrast to the other moles on the same person’s body.<!–more–> This makes it easier for everyone to assess their moles and to determine whether the mole poses a risk of melanoma or skin cancer.

Using the “ugly duckling” sign is also a great way to determine whether a friend or loved one has an unusual mole. This concept was introduced in 1998, and since then it has been a great model to determine abnormalities. Researchers agree that this model is useful for those performing a self-examination, however trained skin professionals, such as dermatologists, should use professional equipment to determine skin cancer and melanomas.


#7 Who Is At Risk?

It is important for everyone to realise that they are at risk of developing skin cancer. No one is able to completely avoid the sun or UV rays after all!<!–more–> But there are also some factors that may place people at a higher risk of developing skin cancer if they fail to take the necessary precautions as mentioned previously.

People with freckles and pale skin tones are placed at a higher risk because pale skin burns not only faster, but also more easily. People with light colored eyes, such as green and blue eyes, as well as people with naturally red or blonde hair also find themselves at greater risk of developing skin cancer if they fail to protect themselves from harsh UV rays. This is because these people have lower eumelanin levels, meaning they do not get as much natural antioxidant protection from the sun and UV.

People who spend a lot of time outdoors, either for their career or leisure activities, also face higher risks.

Last, but not least, those with a personal or family history of skin cancer or melanoma are also at a higher risk of developing the cancer, due to their DNA.



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