One in five people will, unfortunately, be diagnosed with a skin cancer. Skin cancer affects all races and ages, although people with fair skin are at higher risk. Skin cancer is also more likely to occur in sun-exposed areas of the body.
There are three main types of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma is the most benign diagnosis as it rarely metastasizes (moves to another area). However, it is the most common skin cancer and becomes disfiguring in time due to local invasion. Basal cell carcinoma usually appears as a pink colored patch of skin or a pearl-like bump. Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer and usually appears as either a scaly patch or a red firm bump. Malignant melanoma is the most serious of skin cancers and can be life threatening. It is important to know the concerning signs and symptoms of a pre-existing or new mole. These changes are known as the ABCDE’s of melanoma.
Asymmetry – One side of a mole does not look like the other (no longer a mirror image)
Border – The edges of a mole appear irregular or ill-defined
Color – Multiple shades or colors are seen in the same mole
Diameter – Melanomas are often the size of a pencil eraser, although they can be smaller
Evolving – A mole that continues to change appearance or bleed
The best idea is to prevent a skin cancer before it begins. The days of baby oil mixed with iodine are passed. Sunscreen is the simplest preventive measure other than avoiding sun exposure. The use of a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves are also useful. Regular physician exams are important, especially if you or your close family members have a history of skin cancer.