May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. With over 5 million cases presenting in the U.S. each year, investing in regular preventive skin cancer screenings and having the knowledge you need is a must. Here's what you need to know.
There are a few common types of skin cancer that are important for you to know about. First is basal cell carcinoma, which is the most common skin cancer and the most frequently occurring. Almost 4 million of all annual skin cancer cases in the U.S. are basal cell carcinoma. As the name suggests, this cancer forms in the basal cells. Fortunately, since it grows so slowly, this is also one of the most curable types of skin cancer.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. This type of cancer is characterized by abnormal rates of growth in squamous cells. This type of skin cancer can appear as a scaly red patch on the skin, an open sore, or even a wart-like growth. It may appear differently from person to person, which makes early detection key.
Melanoma may be less common than basal and squamous cell carcinoma, but it is far more dangerous. This is because of its ability to spread rapidly to other parts of the body. If not detected and treated at an early stage, this skin cancer can be deadly. As it spreads beneath the skin and to other parts of the body, it becomes more and more difficult to treat. Early detection can save lives.
Skin cancer screenings should be a regular part of routine medical care. In most cases, once every year or two will do the trick. But if you belong to certain high-risk groups, more frequent skin cancer screenings may be necessary. For example, if you've been severely sunburnt in one area of your body more than once, you could be at a much higher risk of developing skin cancer. Likewise, patients who have fair skin, light hair, a family history of skin cancer, or irregular moles are also in higher risk groups. In addition, if you've had skin cancer before, your doctor will likely order more frequent skin cancer screenings to make sure your cancer hasn't resurfaced.
While regular skin cancer screenings with your doctor are essential for early detection, that doesn't mean you can't do your part at home. In fact, once-monthly skin examinations at home can help you determine whether you need to see your doctor sooner rather than later for your next skin cancer screening. During your at-home exams, you should be looking for any sign of irregularity on your body. Check areas like the bottoms of your feet, your hands, and your inner thighs. In addition, be on the lookout for any irregular moles on your body. If you notice that a mole has changed in color, shape, size, or texture, it could be time to give your doctor a call.
If you believe you've detected an early sign of skin cancer or another problem on your skin and you want to schedule a skin cancer screening, contact our team at North Pacific Dermatology to set up an appointment today.