The incidence of skin cancer is continuing to climb despite improvements in diagnostic procedures, more public awareness, and technological advances in treatment.
Melanoma is the most lethal form of skin cancer, and according to estimates provided by the American Cancer Society, more than 106,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with the condition in 2021 alone. The sickness is expected to claim the lives of approximately 7,200 people.
The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most treatable and curable forms of cancer, provided that it is diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
Therefore, it is extremely important to be knowledgeable about the early warning signs of skin cancer.
The fundamentals of skin cancer
The uncontrolled proliferation of skin cells is what causes skin cancer. DNA damage causes cells to alter and expand uncontrollably, which can lead to skin cancer. The risk of developing skin cancer increases with the length of time an individual spends in the sun as well as the severity of their sunburns and other acute exposures to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Anyone can get skin cancer, but those with light or fair complexion, blonde or red hair, and green, grey, or blue eyes are more likely to develop the disease than those with darker skin.
There are three primary forms of cancer that can occur on the skin.
The most prevalent type of skin cancer is called basal cell carcinoma, or BCC for short. These malignancies of the skin most commonly appear on the head, neck, or arms; however, they can also manifest themselves on the chest, stomach, or legs. Because to tanning bed use and greater time spent outside, experts are increasingly seeing people diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma at a younger age than in the past. Historically, older people were most likely to have the condition.
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most frequent kind of skin cancer after basal cell carcinoma. It is common for them to manifest on the lips, nose, and ears. Squamous cell carcinomas are twice as common in men as they are in women and typically manifest themselves in adults over the age of 50.
Melanoma: While heredity plays a larger role in the development of melanoma than it does in the development of other skin cancers, indoor tanning and prolonged exposure to potentially damaging UV rays can raise your risk, particularly if you suffered a serious burn when you were younger.
Melanoma develops in stages that vary according to the extent of the disease. Because melanoma poses a greater risk of death at later stages, it is critical to receive a diagnosis as soon as possible and start treatment as soon as possible after that.
Indications and manifestations of skin cancer
Be on the lookout for pearly white or flesh-colored lesions that may resemble a pimple, advises Andrea Murina, MD, a dermatologist at Tulane Medical Center in Louisiana. Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common types of skin cancer. The fact that it does not heal or go away and has a propensity to bleed very easily sets it apart from a pimple in a few key respects. BCCs will frequently have an open wound or crust on them, which makes it easy for people to confuse them with scars.
Squamous cell carcinoma: SCCs often manifest themselves as thick, scaly patches that are prone to crusting and easy bleeding, according to Murina. These spots are also enduring and won’t disappear on their own in the foreseeable future. It’s possible for them to look like warts or like an open sore with raised edges and a pink or red centre in some cases.
Melanoma: A mole, bump, or blemish that begins to itch, bleed, change colour or shape, or grow in size is one of the most prevalent indicators that a person may have melanoma, according to Murina. Although they can appear anywhere on the body, the head, neck, back, and trunk are more likely to be affected in men, whilst the arms and legs are more likely to be affected in women. To assist you in determining whether or not a mole may be a melanoma, you might use the ABCDE rule as a guide:
- Does one half of the mole appear to be a different size or colour than the other? This is an indication of asymmetry.
- How does the border of the mole look? Is it smooth, lumpy, fuzzy, or otherwise irregular?
- Color: Does the colour vary from one side of the mole to the other? Does it have areas of pink, white, red, blue, black, or brown, as well as other colours?
- What is the diameter of the mole? Is it larger than the size of an eraser on a pencil? (It is important to keep in mind that melanomas might occasionally be significantly less extensive than this.)
- Changing: Does the mole alter in size, shape, or colour as it develops?
How to perform a checkup on oneself
A monthly skin cancer check is one of the greatest ways to detect skin cancer in its early stages and treat it successfully.
“Get undressed and use the mirror to evaluate existing moles and freckles,” Murina advises. “Get rid of anything that covers your body.” “Make sure that the locations you already have are keeping the same or are at least somewhat comparable to what you recall, and look for any changes or new areas that you haven’t seen before.”
She goes on to say that a dermatologist should be consulted about “any [bump, lesion, or blemish] that changes over time or isn’t healing.”
You should get any suspicious spots examined by a dermatologist, and then continue to have follow-up skin inspections according to the timetable that your dermatologist recommends. If you have specific risk factors, such as a weakened immune system, a fair complexion, a history of skin cancer in your family, or a previous diagnosis of skin cancer, you may need to have your skin checked more frequently.
Should you receive testing for skin cancer on a regular basis?
The United States Preventive Services Task Force stated in 2016 that there is “insufficient evidence to recommend for or against” frequent tests for skin cancer due to the lack of a clear benefit or drawback.
However, you shouldn’t end your relationship with your dermatologist just yet. The task group is not advocating that you avoid getting checked for skin cancer on an annual basis or every six months. They just do not have sufficient evidence to conclude with absolute certainty that the benefits outweigh the hazards for everyone.
Screening hazards are minor. A biopsy is what’s done when a worrisome mole is discovered by your healthcare provider (HCP). The HCP will remove a small piece of tissue from the mole and examine it under a microscope. The operation may result in a scar or make the patient anxious.
However, the screening procedure itself is not intrusive. Your healthcare provider will examine your skin with a specialised magnifying glass that has a light shining through it to look for any new or changing spots.
A screening is probably something that should be done because skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.