Spot Skin Cancer Early

Image of a doctor looking at someone's skin

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in Americans. One of the keys to successful treatment of skin cancer is early detection.

When abnormal tissue is found early, it is typically easier to treat and has not spread as far as those cancers discovered later. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a great time to become familiar with how to spot skin cancer early.

The most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, which are also known as non-melanoma skin cancer. Most of these cancers can be cured.

Melanoma cancer is more likely to spread and can be more difficult to cure. Melanoma is easier to cure if the tumor is found early, before it spreads from the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) to the dermis (the inner layer of skin).

Risk factors vary for different types of skin cancer, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention some general risk factors include having: lighter natural skin color; blue or green eyes; blond or red hair; a history of sunburns; a history of indoor tanning; skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun; and certain types of moles and a large number of moles.

Check your skin regularly. Keep in mind the ABCDE rule of skin cancer warning signs:

  • A for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D for Diameter: The spot is larger than about 1/4 inch - the size of a pencil eraser.
  • E for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.

Treatment options for skin cancer vary according to the type of cancer, the severity and other factors. Treatment options include:

  • Treatment or removal of precancerous skin lesions
  • Surgery to physically remove the skin cancer
  • Targeted therapy to destroy certain cancer cells or inhibit their ability to grow
  • Chemotherapy or radiotherapy to kill rapidly growing cancer cells
  • Thermotherapy using heat to kill the cancer cells
  • Immunotherapy to improve the body's natural ability to fight off cancer cells

For more information on skin cancer, visit our website.

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