It’s true: skin cancer affects more people in the United States than any other type of cancer. Being diagnosed with skin cancer can be incredibly scary, but what’s even worse is not catching the skin cancer early. When skin cancer goes undetected, it can quickly spread to vital organs and become fatal. This Skin Cancer Awareness Month, choose early detection through receiving a mole evaluation.
The vast majority of skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (or UV) light. This exposure can happen through UV rays from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds and booths. Essentially, overexposure damages the skin's DNA to the point that it can no longer regulate or control skin cell growth. Sometimes, this results in cancer.
Every time you expose yourself to UV light, you’re putting yourself at risk of developing types of skin cancer like basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), or melanoma. Wearing sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher daily, and especially when you go outside, is critical to skin cancer prevention.
While one in five Americans will develop some type of skin cancer over the course of their lifetimes, most will recover completely with no lasting damage. However, treatment and recovery are only possible through early detection. When left undetected and untreated, skin cancer can rapidly spread and result in death.
Moles -- medically known as nevi -- are skin growths that develop when pigment cells (or melanocytes) cluster together. Most moles are not related to skin cancer and are harmless. However, some moles can indicate early signs of skin cancer.
You can and should start by doing self-examinations of your body to check for moles. A common mole is usually around a quarter of an inch, roughly the size of a pencil eraser. It should be round or oval in shape and have a smooth surface with distinct edges. It should also be uniform in color.
By regularly checking your body for new moles and changes to existing moles, you can be made aware of early skin cancer symptoms. You can then make an appointment with your dermatologist if you notice any changes. It’s also worth noting that if you have over 50 common moles, you’re already at a high risk of developing skin cancers like melanoma. In this case, you should regularly receive professional mole evaluations.
Take note of the following characteristics of your moles when performing your self-checks, as this is what doctors look for during mole evaluations: color changes; size changes; shape, texture or height changes; dry or scaly surface; hard or lumpy to the touch; itching, bleeding or oozing.
If you notice any of these symptoms, get in to see your doctor as soon as possible. Note that these changes do not automatically mean skin cancer is present, but it’s important to get checked quickly. Regular mole evaluations and mole mapping with a dermatologist can help detect and stop the spread of skin cancer before it gets more serious.
If you’re in the greater New York City area and want to schedule a mole evaluation or seek treatment for melanoma skin cancer, contact Vanguard Dermatology today for an appointment with one of our doctors. Early detection could make all the difference!