Skin Cancer Warning Signs and the Importance of Annual Screenings
This past Saturday, I ran a 5K to raise money for the Melissa K. Bambino Melanoma Foundation to fund melanoma research and awareness. The organization was created in memory of 29-year-old Melissa Bambino who died of skin cancer in 2003. The group, led by members of her family, works toward promoting sun safety and the importance of an annual skin exam. And with May being Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it's the perfect time to spread this extremely important message.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, probably making up more than half of all diagnosed cases of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). The incidence of skin cancer is rising dramatically in the United States. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer, accounting for more than 75 percent of all deaths from skin cancer, about 8,700 last year alone.
With early detection, melanoma is highly curable. "The average five-year survival rate for individuals whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads to the lymph nodes is 98 percent," cites the AAD. They also say that there is a direct correlation between the thickness of the melanoma and survival rate.
Preventative screenings save lives—period. If you've been putting off your annual skin exam, don't delay any longer. It is also recommended that you examine your own skin for abnormalities, preferably once a month. If you find anything suspicious, make an appointment with your health care professional. Skin cancer is more common in men, so be sure to encourage the males in your life to get screenings as well.
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
Find a free skin cancer screening site near you by clicking here.