Skin cancer doesn’t alwayslooklike trouble.
Though most of us would know to seek a medical opinion over asuspicious mole, other patches may not seem questionable at all. That’swhy regular skin checks — through self-exams, as well as appointments with your family physician or dermatologist — are important.Basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, frequently looks like a flesh-colored, pearl-like bump, or raised reddish patch that might be itchy. They can also appear to be flat, firm, pale, or yellowareas, similar to a scar, or pink growths with raised edges. These can develop anywhere on the body after years of frequent sun exposure or indoor tanning.
Suspicious areas can also look like dry, rough,scaly patches or spots that may be flesh-colored or pink-red. Known as actinic keratoses, these spots usually appear on areas prone to frequentsun exposure: the neck, head, hands, and forearms, according to the American Cancer Society. People with one actinic keratosis oftendevelop many more. These spots could stay the same, clear up on their own, or developinto squamous cell carcinoma, so seeking a professional opinion is key.
Red firm bumps, scaly patches, wart-like growths,sores that heal but then come back — these couldbe indicative of squamous cell carcinoma. Therims of the ears, neck, back, face, arms, and chestare frequently affected by these growths, which can develop deep in the skin and spread toother areas of the body.
Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, usually develops in a mole orsuddenly appears as a new dark spot on the skin. “Most people have moles,and almost all moles are harmless,” states the American Cancer Society. “Butit’s important to notice changes in a mole — such as its size, shape, or color — because that may be a sign that melanoma is developing.”
“Regardless of your skin suspicions, catching them early is very important,”said Temeria Wilcox, CRNP, a board-certified family nurse practitioner atMedStar Health Primary Care at East Run Centerin Lexington Park. “Becausebasal cell carcinoma, in particular, can invade the surrounding tissue andgrow into the nerves and bones, preventing permanent damage starts withdoing regular skin checks, keeping appointments for routine physicals, andseeing a doctor right away with any skin concerns.”
When doing a self-exam, note your standard birthmarks, moles, and otherblemishes, and have a partner help inspect hard-to-reach areas like yourback and neck. Regular exams are especially important for those at a higherrisk of skin cancer: people with reduced immunity; those who have had skincancer before; and people with a strong family history of the disease.
“Be aware of your normal pattern of moles, freckles, and blemishes,” Temeria advised. “Checking your own skin frequently can help find manyskin cancers early, when they are easier to treat. Your doctor can work with you as a part of your routine physical and overall wellness.”
VisitMedStarStMarys.org/SkinCheckto learn more about skin health.