May is skin cancer awareness month. In recognition of that, we want to get the word out and make sure everyone is taking care of their skin, checking their skin for suspicious spots or moles, and knows what to look for.
Skin cancer can come in a lot of types, shapes, sizes and colors. Because of this, it can be hard to know what to look for and when to be concerned. Abnormal spots on the skin, raised spots on the skin, spots that are growing or changing shape, moles that are growing or changing shape, as well as rough patches on the skin or on your moles, are signs that you need to see a doctor. The Skin Care Center at Gulf Coast Plastic Surgery recommends that adults, particularly those who are at high risk for skin cancer because of heredity or sun exposure, get their skin checked regularly by a qualified family physician or dermatologist.
Here are a few of the more common types of skin cancer people experience:
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Around 80% of skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas. This type of cancer tends to appear in areas exposed to the sun like the face, neck, chest or scalp. If caught early, it is highly treatable and has an excellent cure rate. People who have had this type of skin cancer are likely to get it again in new places, so it is particularly important to keep an eye on your skin and get regular skin checkups.
Squamous cell carcinoma is another type of skin cancer that tends to appear on parts of the body exposed to the sun. The face, neck, ears, lips and hands are common areas of the skin where squamous cell carcinomas develop. This type of cancer, although not as common, is more likely to spread to other areas of the body than basal cell carcinoma. It should be treated as soon as possible to prevent the cancer from growing and potentially causing disfigurement.
Melanomas are less common than the two previous forms of cancer, but they are the most likely to grow and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. This is among the most dangerous types of skin cancer because it can metastasize quickly. Cancerous moles fall into the melanoma category. All moles are benign tumors and most will never turn into a melanoma. However, having a lot of moles puts you at a higher risk for developing melanoma.
Smoking, excess sun exposure, age and family history all increase your risk of developing skin cancers. Keep in mind that just because you’re not at high risk doesn’t mean you won’t get it. Your skin is your largest organ and it’s important to be diligent and check yourself often. Even better, schedule a “skin check” appointment with your family doctor or dermatologist. If you see something odd, get it checked out by a medical professional right away. Catching skin cancer early is key. It allows for different types of treatments and lowers the risk of it spreading to other parts of the body.
Of course, an ounce of prevention is work a pound of cure when it comes to skin cancer. As summer approaches, schedule a free consultation with one of our skin care experts at The Skin Care Center at Gulf Coast Plastic Surgery. We can evaluate your skin, recommend the best in sun prevention products and help you on your way to a long life of healthy skin.
photo credit: The Skin Cancer Foundation