According to the American Academy of Dermatology, some 68,720 people were diagnosed with melanoma, or skin cancer in 2009. This is on the rise from 2000 when only 47,000 cases were diagnosed, partially due to increased monitoring. While most skin conditions aren’t serious, it’s always a good idea to get checked if you notice a suspicious mole or simply observe changes in your skin. Here are four warnings signs that you should see your dermatologist.
Detecting skin cancer starts at home. Pay close attention to the moles on your body. Melanoma, the most serious skin cancer, can often be spotted using the ABCDE method as a guide. I learned the following method from a recent blog post by PhysicianOne Urgent Care. The letter A stands for asymmetry. Normal moles are typically symmetrical, so if one side does not match the other it could be a warning sign. The letter B stands for border. Check your moles for edges that are irregular, notched, or blurred. C is for color. Rather than looking for a particularly dark spot, you should look to see that your moles are even in color. Discoloration or a mole that is uneven in color can be a sign of melanoma. D is for diameter. While some can be smaller, most melanomas are larger than the size of a pencil eraser. E is for evolving. This means you’ve noticed a difference in a mole’s shape, size, or color.
If you notice anything unusual when performing an ABCDE screening, it’s time to see the dermatologist. Among many reasons, it’s important to catch melanoma early to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.
Some types of skin cancer can appear without producing changes in moles. Basal cell carcinomas, for example, present themselves differently. If you notice flat, pale areas or see an area of raised pink or red shiny bumps, this can be an indication of basal cell. Larger basal cells can even produce oozing. While these types of carcinomas generally appear on an individual’s face, they can also appear in other places. This type of skin cancer is typically isolated to one area and usually will not spread to other parts of the body.
Changes on your skin’s surface should not be taken lightly, even if they don’t involve moles. Actinic keratosis, a type of pre-cancerous lesion, shows itself as pink or red spots that have rough, scaly surfaces. These are usually brought on by excessive sun exposure and can become cancerous if left untreated.
Lumps and Swelling
Other types of skin cancer, like squamous cell carcinomas, can be hard to detect because they can occur in places on the body that don’t come in contact with the sun as well as places that are in the sun. The most common places on the body for squamous cell carcinomas to appear are the head, face, ears, neck, legs, and feet. Growing lumps or flat red patches that gradually increase in size are signs of squamous cell carcinomas. Like melanoma, squamous cell carcinomas can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated.
If you notice any of these warning signs on your body or have simply observed unusual changes in your skin, it’s a good idea to take immediate action and see a dermatologist as quickly as possible.