Health Central has released a more thorough list of the signs that a spot on your skin may be invasive potentially-deadly cancer. There is a growing number of cases of melanoma among young people from the use of tanning beds and extreme sun exposure. It is necessary to know the signs and what to do should you identify an unusual area or mole on your skin. Remember, a family history of skin cancer puts you at higher risk of developing skin cancer, however, not everyone with skin cancer has a family history. Don’t assume that because no one in your family has skin cancer that you won’t either.
A normal mole
- Is about the size of a pencil eraser. If you notice a mole is evolving, growing or is asymmetrical, it is time to talk to a dermatologist.
- It can get darker with sun exposure. If it turns black in the middle with tan, white, red or pink around the outside, seek medical attention.
- It should be round in edges with NO irregularities.
- It should be flat on the surface. If your mole turns crusty, rough, scaly or develops a scab it may potentially be cancerous and you should talk with your doctor as soon as possible.
- Moles should not be painful. If you have a mole that is bleeding, oozing, itching or tender to the touch, it might signal melanoma.
The three major types of skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, in decreasing order of frequency. Melanoma accounts for around one percent of all skin cancer cases, but advanced melanoma causes the majority (75 percent) of skin cancer deaths.
What is melanoma?
Melanoma begins in pigment-producing skin cells called melanocytes. “With sun exposure, the cells make melanin, a dark pigment that causes us to tan. Melanin shields melanocytes and other skin cells from the sun’s rays,” explains Robert M. Conry, M.D., associate professor of hematology and oncology, University of Alabama at Birmingham. “When a melanocyte forms a tumor, it’s called a melanoma.”
- Typically affects the upper back, chest, arms or legs. Melanoma can also occur when a benign (noncancerous) mole becomes malignant.
- Studies have shown that as few as three episodes of UV tanning can create a 40 percent increase in the incidence of melanoma, and the more times people use tanning beds, the greater their risk,” Conry says. “Melanoma has been substantially increasing in incidence over the last 30 years.”
- About 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure from the sun. Having more than five sunburns during childhood doubles the risk of melanoma.
- Melanoma does not spring up overnight, however. “There’s a latency period of anywhere from 10 years to 50 years from when you got the sun exposure to when you clinically develop melanoma,” Conry says.
- Risk factors include fair skin, number of moles, personal history of non-melanoma skin cancer, family history of melanoma and a weakened immune system. Dark-skinned individuals have the lowest risk but are more likely to have advanced melanoma by the time it is detected.
Protect your skin
In addition to frequent skin checks, you also need to actively practice regular UV protection by using sunscreen of 30 SPF or greater, wearing wide-brimmed hats, staying in the shade as often as possible between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM and wearing protective clothing.
Ref. healthcentral.com, cbsnews
Photo courtesy of cbsnews.