What are the skin cancer warning signs and what can be done to help prevent skin cancer?
In recent years, a lot of attention has been focused on the prevention of skin cancer. Of course, skin cancer is not a new disease but as scientists have learned more about how to prevent it, they realized that early detection is the key. It is important, therefore, that people are aware of what they can do to prevent skin cancer and what to keep an eye out for so that they can catch the cancer in time.
There are two main risk factors for skin cancer. The first is sun exposure. People who live in sunny areas, people who are continuously exposed to the sunlight, or people who were badly sunburned as children are all at a higher risk. Fair-skinned people are high risk as well. It is important that everyone be protected when they go out in the sun. Sunscreen should be worn all the time, even if the day seems cloudy or not that hot. This is especially important for those with fair skin and for children. If you are going to be exposed to the sun for a long period of time, you should try to cover up as much skin as possible with hats, long pants, or jackets. Young children should always wear a wide-brimmed hat when playing out in the sun. The second component of skin cancer risk is genetic. Some people are just more apt to get skin cancer than others. There is nothing you can do about this, but if you know you are at a greater risk because of your family, you should be even more vigilant in checking for skin cancer warning signs.
There are several types of skin cancer, and they all present slightly different. Melanoma is one of the rarer skin cancers, but it is also the most deadly. Catching melanoma early is important, so everyone should make checks of their bodies on a monthly basis, just like a monthly breast exam is recommended for women. One way to remember the warning signs of melanoma is the mnemonic “ABCDE.” The A stands for asymmetrical. Check any moles on your body. Asymmetrical moles could be malignant. B stand for border. If the border of the mole or mark looks irregular, then get it checked out. C stands for color. Moles that are multiple colors could be cancerous. D stands for diameter. If you have a mole that measures more than 5 mm, it is at greater risk for being a melanoma. E can stand for evolution or elevation. Evolution means how the mole has appeared over time. Has it changed color, shape, or size? This is a sign that cancer might be developing. Elevation means that mole is raised up above the skin. If you have any of these warning signs, you should make an appointment to see your doctor right away.
Skin cancer can present in different ways and a doctor will need to examine you to determine if a mole or area of skin needs to be checked further. A biopsy is usually done and the sample is checked for malignancy.