Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Skin Cancer in its Earliest Stages

 Skin Cancer Awareness Month: Skin Cancer in its Earliest Stages

Skin cancer takes many different forms, which means it's important to understand what the early signs of skin cancer look like. Here's what you need to look for.

Persistent Scaly Patches of Skin

This is one of the earliest warning signs of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which is the second-most common type of skin cancer diagnosis in the United States. While this type of skin cancer is relatively slow to spread, paying attention to your skin can make all the difference when it comes to diagnosis. The red patches of skin that are commonly associated with SCC are made up of dry, scaly skin and have raised edges. While SCC is mostly one color, it's important to note that there can be variations from case to case. This particular SCC symptom typically shows up as red or pink, but can also look brown, black, yellowish, or white. It's also important to note that these patches stay concentrated in a small area and may bleed or ooze.

Wart-Like Growths

Wart-like growths may be an early warning sign of several different types of skin cancer. And though they may look like warts, they certainly won't disappear like regular warts. While ordinary warts may disappear with the help of a few simple treatments, cancerous growths stick around. In addition, these wart-like growths may develop a crust and bleed as the skin cancer progresses.

Waxy Bumps

Another early warning sign of skin cancer is pearly or waxy bumps on the skin. These bumps may look like benign cysts at first, and even feel like them. But if you're not prone to cyst growth or you notice that this bump starts to grow or change, it's time to see your dermatologist. It's also important to keep in mind that a bump like this on your skin may be indicative of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) development. If a bump like this appears on an area of your body that has been consistently over-exposed to sunlight, you may be dealing with BCC.

Abnormal Moles

Almost everyone has moles on their body, but not all of them are harmless. In fact, moles are typically one of the first places your doctor will check for skin cancer during a routine screening. These sections of tissue are at the highest risk of developing melanoma. Fortunately, the ABCDE rule can help you identify unusual or abnormal moles on your body. Let's review.

Asymmetry - Normal moles are symmetrical, meaning they look the same on all sides. Moles that are asymmetrical or oddly shaped could be a sign of abnormal cell reproduction.

Border - The border on a mole should be well-defined and smooth. Borders that are jagged, blurred, or hard to define could be indicative of cancerous growth.

Color - The moles on your body should all be relatively similar in color. If there's one mole that stands out with either unusual coloring or inconsistent coloring within, it's time to see your dermatologist. Common colors to look out for include red, black, white, and blue.

Diameter - In most cases, you need to see a dermatologist when a mole reaches the size about equivalent to a pencil eraser. Normal moles typically do not grow to this size.

Evolving - The features of your skin should not change under normal circumstances. So if you notice a mole that has changed in size, shape, height, texture, or color, it's important to contact your dermatologist.

Skin cancer can be tricky to spot at first. That's why it's so important to check your skin for abnormalities regularly and to see a dermatologist if you have any concerns. If you have questions about abnormalities on your skin and want an accurate diagnosis, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today.

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