Recognizing the Signs, Symptoms and Prevention of Skin Cancer – MelanomaSkin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. It is also one of the most preventable. As with any other type of cancer, there are a number of risk factors that may lead to skin cancer. Among them are exposure to the sun, genetics, and age. Signs and symptoms of skin cancer usually occur suddenly (acute phase) or gradual (chronic phase). The three main forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Let’s take a look at what they are and how you can recognize their signs and symptoms so you can start preventing it sooner rather than later.Basal Cell CarcinomaBasal cell carcinoma is the most common skin cancer and occurs most often in the head and neck area. It is a non-melanoma skin cancer that is curable if found early. It is thought to be caused by excessive production of cells in the epidermal layer. Although there are various strains that cause basal cell carcinoma, the most common one is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV)-6 and HPV-11 strains. Signs and symptoms of this skin cancer may include a red, thick, scaly patch on the skin, usually on the trunk, arms, and legs. Skin cancer signs and symptoms may also include: – Reddish or bluish color, especially on the palms and soles – Thick, scaly patches on the skin – Itching, burning sensation in the area – Pain or discomfort – Sores or open sores in the areaSquamous Cell CarcinomaSquamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of skin cancer. It accounts for about one-third of all skin cancers. Unlike basal cell carcinomas that occur mainly on the trunk, arms and legs, squamous cell carcinomas are mostly found on the face and neck. Signs and symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma may include: – Itchy, scaly patches on the skin – Red, raised spots on the skin – White or grayish patches on the skin – Sores on the skin – Itchy rash with dark patches on the trunkMelanomaMelanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer. It accounts for about 8 percent of all skin cancers. It is most common in people between the ages of 30 and 55. Melanoma is considered a “curable” form of cancer if it is detected and treated early, but it can still be deadly. Signs and symptoms of melanoma may include: – Dark marks on the skin – Pimples that do not heal – Sores on the skin – Changes in the size or color of a mole, often changing from a brown to red color – Itchy, raised patches on the skin or palmsHow to Recognize the Signs of Skin CancerThe only way to properly prevent skin cancer is to regularly check your skin for changes that may indicate a problem. This includes checking yourself for any unusual changes in the color, size, shape, and/or texture of your moles, growths, or skin spots. This is especially important if you have dark skin because you are more likely to get skin cancers on your skin. Let’s take a look at some of the signs and symptoms you should look out for. – Reddish, blue, or white patches on the skin – Dark marks on the skin – Itchy, scaly patches on the skin – Sores on the skin – Changes in the size or color of a mole, often changing from a brown to red color – Nodules on the skinPrevention of Skin CancerThe best way to prevent skin cancer is to avoid excessive sun exposure. This can be difficult in areas where the sun is the strongest, such as the southwestern US and the Southwest Pacific. You can also use a sunscreen when you are outside. Apply the sunscreen generously, especially on your face, ears, lips, and neck. If you forget to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, reapply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every hour. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends getting 10 to 15 minutes of daily sun exposure, or the time it takes to drink one glass of milk. If you are concerned about getting skin cancer due to your skin type, there are ways to protect your skin. For example, wear a hat to block the sun’s rays and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher before you go outside. The American Cancer Society also recommends avoiding indoor tanning, as it increases your risk of skin cancer.When to Call a DoctorIf you notice any changes in the appearance of your skin, you should call a doctor. Your doctor will examine your skin and take a biopsy to determine if there is anything wrong with your skin. This can help you prevent or treat future problems with your skin.If you have a history of skin cancer, see a doctor if any new or changing moles appear on your body. You should also see a doctor if you notice any changes in the size, shape, color, or thickness of an existing mole on your body.
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