Nobody wants to hear that they’ve got the dreaded C — cancer. Among the deadliest and most feared types are lung, breast, prostate and pancreatic cancer, not to mention Leukemia. Skin cancer isn’t as infamous as these. However, it can be just as serious.

That raises two questions. What can you do to make sure that you don’t develop skin cancer? Also, what steps should you take if you suspect that you might have it? The answers to these questions could very well save your life.

Forms of Skin Cancer

The three most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. BCC affects the basal cells, which are responsible for replacing old skin cells with new.

SCC, on the other hand, affects the squamous cells that form the outer layer of the skin. These two forms are the most common and are often caused by prolonged exposure to the sun without adequate protection.

Then, there’s melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. This form occurs when the pigment-producing cells in the body become cancerous. While this form is generally the most dangerous, it’s good to note that basal and squamous cell can also be deadly if left untreated.

How to Spot Skin Cancers

The best way to prevent a close call with skin cancer is to know what warning signs to look for. After all, you’ll want to receive appropriate treatment if needed and ASAP.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

  • Open sores that bleed or ooze and never heal permanently
  • A reddish patch on skin that’s crusty, itchy or painful
  • A shiny bump or nodule that’s pink, red, black or brown. (It could be confused with a mole at times.)
  • A pink growth with elevated edges and a crusty crater-like center
  • A white or yellow scar-like area with skin that appears shiny and taut

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

  • Long-lasting scaly red patch with irregular borders. At times, it may crust or bleed.
  • A growth with elevated borders and a central depression that grows in size and sometimes bleeds
  • An open sore that bleeds and crusts for weeks at a time
  • A wart that crusts and bleeds

Melanoma (using the ABCDE method of detection):

  • (A)symmetry: A mole that is not symmetrical on all sides may be an indicator of melanoma
  • (B)order: Benign moles will have smooth, even and defined borders. Melanomas have uneven borders and are sometimes even notched.
  • (C)olor: Melanomas often have a variety of different colors and shades.
  • (D)iameter: Benign moles usually have a smaller diameter than the eraser on a pencil tip. Malignant moles or melanomas are generally larger in diameter.
  • (E)volving: A change in size, color, elevation, shape or any other feature is a cause for concern.

Regular self-exams will help you to identify any warning signs as early as possible.

Are You at Risk?

Research has shown that certain groups of people have a higher risk. If you fit into one or more of these categories, you may want to take extra precautions and be more attentive to your skin. Risk factors include:

  • Family or personal history of skin cancer
  • Lighter natural skin color
  • Frequent or prolonged exposure to the sun
  • History of sunburns, especially in early life
  • History of indoor tanning
  • Sensitive skin
  • Blue or green eyes
  • Blond or red hair
  • Having a large number or certain type of moles

Get a Screening!

Especially if you have a higher risk or are suspicious of an area of your skin, you should seek a check up right away. Screenings don’t take long at all and can be lifesavers. The earlier skin cancers are detected, the better the outcome.

Why not get a check up by a doctor just to be sure that you’re in the clear? All of the doctors at Premier Family Medical are qualified to spot skin cancers and we also have a dermatologist on hand, Aaron Peterson. Pay us a visit and get a screening!