Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Fortunately, early detection and skin cancer screenings have saved countless lives. Here's what you need to know.
A skin cancer screening is a visual examination of the skin. While you can perform a self-examination at home, it's also important to have regular skin cancer screenings performed by your doctor or dermatologist. During a skin cancer screening, your doctor will examine your skin very closely. They'll be looking at moles, birthmarks, and any abnormalities that may be present on your skin. They'll also look closely at the skin on your hands, feet, and even between your fingers and toes. Skin cancer can hide in unlikely places, which means your doctor will be as thorough as possible when searching for skin abnormalities. But what do different types of skin cancer look like?
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. In fact, there are almost 4 million cases diagnosed in the U.S. annually. As the name suggests, basal cell carcinoma manifests in the basal cells of the skin. Fortunately, basal cell carcinoma is also a very slow-growing cancer. In addition, understanding the warning signs can help with early detection and lead to effective treatment. Basal cell carcinoma may look different from one person to the next, but it most frequently takes the form of open sores, red patches, or shiny bumps on the skin. Basal cell carcinoma is rarely life-threatening, but can cause a significant amount of damage to skin and surrounding tissue if left untreated.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma. Squamous cells are flat cells located near the surface of the skin. They shed continuously as new cells form, except in the case of skin cancer, which causes them to grow abnormally. Squamous cell carcinoma can be caused by over-exposure to UV radiation and, like basal cell carcinoma, can appear differently from person to person. It most frequently occurs on sun-damaged areas of the body, but can occur on areas that haven't been exposed to the sun at all. In most cases, squamous cell carcinoma may appear as a scaly red patch, an open sore, or even a wart-like growth on the skin.
Melanoma is less common than basal and squamous cell carcinoma, but it is far more dangerous. The biggest reason for this is its ability to spread rapidly to other organs if not treated early. Melanoma can present in all different shapes and sizes, which means regular skin examinations are a must if you're in a high-risk group. When your doctor examines your skin for abnormal moles, they're most often looking for signs of melanoma, which can present as a mole irregularity.
Knowing the early signs of skin cancer can mean the difference between getting effective treatment or not. Skin cancer screenings are an excellent tool, especially when you invest in them regularly. If you have questions or want to set up a skin cancer screening, contact SE Dermatology Specialists today.