Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What to Look for When Checking for Skin Cancer

Vanguard Dermatology woman looking at a mole Skin Cancer Awareness Month: What to Look for When Checking for Skin Cancer

Signs of Skin Cancer and How to Test for Them

Skin cancer should be taken seriously -- it is the most common form of cancer in the world. More than 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, and 2 people in the US die of skin cancer every hour. But, the power you have to detect skin cancer and seek treatment should also be taken seriously. 99% of all cases of skin cancer are curable if detected and treated early enough. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you do a monthly self-check. Learn what things you should look for in a self-check for skin cancer and what steps to take when doing your self-examination.

Early Detection

Skin cancer occurs when skin cells begin to multiply uncontrollably and create abnormal growths. In most cases, this is caused by your skin’s exposure to UV light, usually in the form of sunlight. Although skin cancer can grow in any part of your body, it is most common in areas that receive a lot of sun exposure, such as the scalp, face, ears, neck, shoulders, chest, arms and hands. Because skin cancer starts on the top layer of skin (the epidermis) and is typically in areas that you can see well, you can detect skin cancer before it becomes deadly or disfiguring. It is even possible to detect precancerous spots and get them treated before they become malignant. So, it is important that you know what to look for and how to check your skin. Read on to gain some vital tools for protecting your health.

The Warning Signs

Skin cancer can take on a lot of different looks. It can appear as a scaly patch on your skin, a raised bump, a dark line under your nail, a sore that won’t heal, or a mole that has changed in appearance. All of the signs of skin cancer can feel overwhelming. But thankfully, it’s not your job to diagnose skin cancer -- leave that to your dermatologist. Instead, look for 3 things: new, changing and unusual. New: be aware of recently developed spots on your skin. These can be new moles, patches of discolored skin, raised bumps that don’t go away or shiny smooth spots (like scars). You might feel the changed area on your skin more than you see it. If you have a patch of skin that feels rough, dry, sensitive, painful and/or itchy, visit a dermatologist to get your skin examined. Changing: note any changes to already existing blemishes or spots. Most likely, you have moles or other marks on your skin. And most likely, these spots are not any cause for concern. But, if you see a change in the color, size, texture, shape or sensation in your spots, make an appointment to see your doctor. Changes in skin blemishes can be an indicator of skin cancer. Unusual: pay attention to spots on your skin that look different from surrounding spots (such as other moles), have an unusual border (scalloped or notched as opposed to a smooth edge), or exhibit unusual symptoms, such as continual bleeding, crusting, oozing or itching. A lesion or blemish that doesn’t heal or that returns repeatedly after healing should be examined by a health care professional.

How to Do a Self-Check

Ready to start checking your skin? The first thing to do is to get in front of a mirror. You might want to have a hand mirror as well. Check all over your body, looking at more sun-exposed areas and more hidden areas, like your scalp (a blowdryer can help move portions of your hair around so you can see your scalp), in between your fingers and under your nails, on your underarms, under your breasts, on your thighs and buttocks and your lower back. If there are areas on your body that you can’t see with a mirror, ask someone to examine those spots for irregularities. In addition to doing a monthly self-check, you should schedule an annual skin cancer screening with your dermatologist. Your dermatologist will be able to catch any suspicious spots and answer your questions about skin cancer.

Call Vanguard Today

Contact Vanguard Dermatology located in the greater New York City area. The board-certified dermatologists at Vanguard can offer expert care in skin cancer checks, surgical removal of precancerous and cancerous spots, and other skin cancer treatment and prevention plans.

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