There are 3 major forms of skin cancer of which everyone should be aware: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma in addition to precancerous actinic keratosis. Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are common and there are several types of treatment that are very effective. Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma tend to grow slowly, and rarely metastasize. Melanoma, by contrast, can be very small on the skin and still metastasize quickly. Once it metastasizes, metastatic melanoma is difficult to treat. For this reason, it is critical that melanoma is diagnosed and treated early. Research has shown that patients who are seen by dermatologists regularly for full body skin exams often are diagnosed with earlier stage melanoma than those patients who are not.
Melanomas most frequently occur on areas that have been sunburned in the past, but can also occur in areas that do not see the sun at all. UV exposure, whether from the sun itself or a tanning bed, is carcinogenic and increases an individual’s risk of developing any type of skin cancer.
Here at Rose Dermatology we offer full body skin exams, which we recommend every patient get yearly. During this exam, the dermatologist examines patient from head –to-toe, inspecting any unusual spots or growths. Usually, a dermatoscope is used. This device is comprised of two parts: a specialized magnifier and polarized or unpolarized light. The dermatoscope allows for increased specificity and sensitivity than can be achieved with the naked eye.
In general, it is highly recommended that individuals wear higher SPF sun-screen when exposed to the sun. This provides UV protection and reduces sun damage as frequent sun exposure can add up over time. Regular self-examinations are also recommended to track changes in your skin and moles. The ABCDE’s of melanoma and the “Ugly Duckling” rule should be considered when looking over what seems to be a suspicious mole.
Asymmetrical: one half does not match the other
Border: irregular or jagged borders.
Color:The mole is darker or a different color that all of your other moles, regardless of size or the mole is comprised of multiple different shades of black or brown.
Diameter:The mole is growing in diameter or is larger than 6 mm.
Evolving:Changing shape, size, color, or presents with symptoms such as bleeding, itching, or pain.
The Ugly Duckling rule is an easy way to remember that most people have benign growths on their skin that are similar in appearance. If one growth or lesion stands out and looks different from all other lesions on the skin, it is suspect and should be evaluated by a dermatologist.
For more information, please visit: http://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts#general