Skin cancer refers to the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells. One in five people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Risk factors include fair skin, family history of skin cancer and past sun exposure. Fortunately, skin cancer is almost always curable if detected and treated early.
The most common skin cancers are:
Basal cell carcinoma - 80-85% of all skin cancers.
Squamous cell carcinoma - 10% of all skin cancers.
Melanoma - 5% of all skin cancers. Melanoma is a rare but very dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.
Not every spot is a harmless spot. Learn to identify the bad ones by learning the warning signs of malignancy:
A spot that forms a scab, re-scabs and fails to heal or bleeds occasionally.
A scaly, skin thickening that develops in a small area, usually on the face, neck or hands.
A mole-like growth that increases in size, darkens, becomes ulcerated, or bleeds easily.
A pearly or waxy growth.
Any sore, blister, patch, pimple or other blemish that does not show signs of healing within two to three weeks.
The ABCD’s of Identification are used to screen for melanoma. Take note in strange shapes, edges, color and size. The ABCD’s of melanoma are:
Most early melanomas are asymmetrical; a line through the middle would not create matching halves. Common moles are round and symmetrical.
The borders of early melanomas are often uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges. Common moles have smoother, more even borders.
Common moles usually are a single shade of brown. Varied shades of brown, tan, or black are often the first sign of melanoma. As melanomas progress, the colors red, white and blue may appear.
Early melanomas tend to grow larger than common moles – generally to at least the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm, or ¼ inch, in diameter).
If you spot any of these warning signs, see a doctor right away as early intervention is essential to preventing the cancer from spreading.
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