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About Skin Cancer

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. About one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

Skin cancer occurs when skin tissue grows at an uncontrollable rate and forms a tumor. Some tumors form a circular pattern while others have irregular extensions that are not always visible. Some tumors grow on the skin’s surface, but others may invade muscle, fat, connective tissue and even bone.

Signs of Skin Cancer

Any growth or mark on the skin that has changed or grown in size may indicate the presence of skin cancer. If you detect any of the following, you should be promptly examined:

  • A new growth on the skin that does not disappear in four to six weeks.
  • Any growing skin lesion that turns pearly, translucent, brown, black or multicolored.
  • A mole, birthmark or beauty mark that increases in size, changes color or texture or becomes irregular in outline.
  • An open sore or wound that refuses to heal, persists for more than four weeks or heals and later reopens.
  • Any spot or growth that continues to itch, hurt, crust over, form a scab, erode or bleed for several weeks. Many skin growths may look like skin cancer, but not all are malignant. Any suspicious-looking growth should be evaluated by a dermatologist.

Three Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer the three types of cells in the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. Exposure to ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB, from the sun and other sources is the primary cause although heredity and a compromised immune system can contribute.

Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)

The most frequently occurring form of skin cancer. BCCs develop in the deepest layer of the epidermis. They often look like open sores, red patches, pink growths, shiny lumps or scars and almost never spread or metastasize beyond the original tumor site. Sun exposure is the primary cause of BCCs.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)

An uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the upper most layer of the epidermis. A life- time of sun exposure is the major factor in SCC although infection with Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) also contributes. SCC is most common in areas that have sustained sun damage: the rim of the ear, lower lip, balding scalp, neck, hands arms and legs. The skin in these areas may be wrinkled, have lost elasticity, have freckles or age spots and broken blood vessels. However SCC like other types of skin cancer can develop in areas where there is no sun exposure such as the mucous membranes, the vagina, anus and the nails.

Melanoma (MM)

The most aggressive, deadliest and least common skin cancer, develops in cells called melanocytes which produce melanin gives the skin a tan or brown color. Ultraviolet light exposure from the sun or other sources such as tanning beds can produce damage that causes tumors to develop in the melanocytes. If caught early melanoma is curable but it is also the most likely skin cancer to spread to other parts of the body.

The ABCDE Signs of Melanoma

Using the “ABCDE Signs of Melanoma” rule can help you to recognize suspicious moles during self evaluation. Moles which show one or more of the signs below should be treated with utmost attention and observed by your physician!

melanoma-abcde

Asymmetry — One half of a mole or new patch of pigment doesn’t look like the other half.
Border — A mole or pigment patch that has uneven, blotched or fuzzy edges.
Color — A mole or pigment patch with more than one color or shade.
Diameter — A mole or pigment patch with a diameter greater than a quarter inch.
Evolving — A mole or lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

To learn more about advances in skin cancer detection.

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