skin cancer warning signs

Skin Cancer Warning Signs and the Importance of Annual Screenings

Your Health

Melanoma Warning Signs
The Melissa K. Bambino Melanoma Foundation sites these melanoma warning signs on its website:

  • Enlarging pigmented spot or mole
  • Changes in color of an existing mole
  • Changes in characteristics of skin over the pigmented spot, such as changes in size or shape
  • Bleeding or breaking open

Also, you can use the A-B-C-D-E guide developed by the American Academy of Dermatology:

A. ASYMMETRY: One half unlike the other half
B. BORDER Irregular: Scalloped or poorly circumscribed border
C. COLOR Varied: From one area to another, shades of brown and tan; black; sometimes white, red or blue
D. DIAMETER: Larger than 6mm as a rule (diameter of a pencil eraser)
E. EVOLVING: A mole or skin lesion that looks different than the rest or is changing in size, shape or color

Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Warning Signs
There are many types of non-melanoma cancers, but the two most common types are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. More than 2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year, leading to about 2,000 deaths. According to the AAD, these are the early signs to be on the lookout for:

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
This is the most common type of skin cancer. It most often appears on skin that gets lot of sun, such as the face, scalp, neck, hands and arms, but can appear elsewhere as well.
It may look like a:

  • Reddish patch of dry skin that won't heal
  • Flesh-colored (or pink, red or brown) pearl-shaped lump
  • Pimple that just won't clear
  • Sore that bleeds, heals and then returns
  • Scar that feels waxy—may be skin-colored, white or yellow
  • Group of slow-growing, shiny pink or red growths—look like sores, often scaly and bleed easily
  • Flat or sunken growth—feels hard, may be white or yellow

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
This common type of skin cancer often appears on skin that got lots of sun, such as an ear, face, bald scalp, neck or arm, but it can appear elsewhere on the body as well.

SCC often has a reddish color and often has the following characteristics:

  • Hard (scaly or crusty) reddish bump, patch or pearl-shaped growth
  • Open sore that itches and bleeds; it can heal and return
  • Scaly patch on the lip; skin on the lip can get thick
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