According to the Mayo Clinic, all three types of skin cancer are on the rise. These include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and the most serious form – melanoma. The good news is that almost all forms are preventable by avoiding sun exposure or other forms for ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It is also true that early detection can result in successful treatment of even the most aggressive types of skin cancers.
So what exactly causes skin cancer?
Cancerous cells are most likely to form on parts of your body that have the most exposure to sun. The most vulnerable areas include your face, lips, scalp, chest, neck, arms, hands and women’ s legs. You might be surprised to learn that cell malignant cells can also develop in areas of your body that are rarely (or never) exposed directly to sunlight. These areas include between your toes, under your toenails or fingernails, the palms of your hands, and the genital area.
The risk of skin cancer is not limited simply to people with light complexions. But when dark skinned people do develop melanoma, they are more likely to experience it in parts of the body not usually considered to be sun-exposed.
There is also no standard time table for cancerous lesions to develop. Depending on the type of cancer, a skin lesion can develop slowly over many years or appear very suddenly.
Warning signs of skin cancer are usually visual. For basal cell carcinoma, you may notice a waxy bump on your face, neck or ears, or a flat brown scar-like lesion on your back or chest. Squamous cell carcinoma usually appears as a firm red nodule, or a flat scaly lesion, on the face, neck, ear, hands or arms.
Melanoma, which is the most deadly form of skin cancer, can develop anywhere on the body – although it is found most frequently on the trunk, head or neck of men and the arms or legs of women. Melanoma can appear as a large brown spot with darker speckles, or a mole that suddenly changes color or size or bleeds. Melanoma can also appears as a small lesion with an irregular border and blue, red, black or white spots. Shiny, firm dome-shaped bumps can also be a warning sign of melanoma, as well as dark lesions on the soles of the feet, palms of the hands, or on the mucous linings of the nose, mouth, anus or vagina.
While not all changes in your skin are malignant, it is best to have your doctor examine any changes that you notice. With early detection, most skin cancer can treated. And with proper sun protection, it can often be avoided altogether.