Is it a Mole or is it Skin Cancer?
The bad news is that skin cancer rates are still on the rise. The good news is that this rate increase is due to an increased awareness of the possibility and danger of skin cancer that is motivating people to look more thoroughly for suspicious spots—and at an earlier age. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers; however, not all skin cancers are deadly. Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancers, but it does result in the large majority of skin cancer deaths.
Skin cancer stats
According to the American Cancer Society, the latest estimates for melanoma in the U.S. are:
• About 76,250 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 44,250 in men and 32,000 in women). Incidence rates for melanoma have been rising for at least 30 years.
• About 9,180 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,060 men and 3,120 women). From 2004 to 2008, the death rate in whites has been dropping in those younger than 50, but has been stable in women or rising in men older than 50.
Who gets skin cancer?
• Ten times more Caucasians than Blacks get skin cancer
• Before age 40, more women get skin cancer than men
• After age 40, skin cancer rates in men are double those of women
• While skin cancer is highest among older adults, it is the most common cancer in young people
Spotting suspicious spots before it’s too late
Aside from applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing while outdoors, self-examination is the best line of defense when trouble may be erupting on your skin. The most basic self-exam test is asking yourself if that mole is new one or if it is an older one that appears to be changing in size, shape or color.
The following are the types of skin cancers to look for:
Basal Cell Carcinoma—this type can develop anywhere on the body, but typically appear where the sun has had the most exposure to the skin. Basal cell carcinomas grow slow and can present the following signs:
• A sore that bleeds, heals and returns
• A pimple that doesn’t clear
• A persistent reddish patch of dry skin
• A hard, flat sunken growth that is white or yellow
• A waxy-feeling scar that can be flesh colored, whiter or yellow
• A pearl-shaped lump that’s skin-colored, pink, brown or red with a depressed center
Squamous Cell Carcinoma—although this type also typically occurs on the sun-exposed skin areas, it can also appear in the mouth, on the lips or genitals. Squamous cell carcinomas typically look like:
• An open sore that itches and bleeds that might heal, but then return
• A hard and scaly or crusty reddish bump, patch or pearl-shaped growth
• A scaly patch on the lip that thickens
Melanoma—a normal mole is usually small, of one color, and circular or oval with a well-defined border. However, a melanoma has distinctive characteristics to it that should cause some alarm. These characteristics include:
• An asymmetry where one half is unlike the other half
• A border that is irregular or poorly defined
• A color that varies from one part of the “mole” to another in shades of black, brown and tan or at times can range from blue to red to white.
• Typically, a diameter bigger than a pencil eraser, but can be smaller
• A mole that is changing in appearance
After a self-exam if you feel that you may be experiencing any changes to any existing moles or a new one has developed that wasn’t there before, be sure to see your physician about and ask if a referral is needed for analysis by a dermatologist.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
Reference: American Cancer Society