Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 500,000 new cases are reported each year-and the incidence is rising faster than any other type of cancer. While skin cancers can be found on any part of the body, about 80 percent appear on the face, head, or neck, where they can be disfiguring as well as dangerous.
The primary cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet radiation -most often from the sun, but also from artificial sources like sunlamps and tanning booths. In fact, researchers believe that our quest for the perfect tan, an increase in outdoor activities, and perhaps the thinning of the earth’s protective ozone layer are behind the alarming rise we’re now seeing in skin cancers.
Anyone can get skin cancer-no matter what your skin type, race or age, no matter where you live or what you do. But your risk is greater if…
Basal and squamous cell carcinomas can vary widely in appearance. The cancer may begin as small, white or pink nodule or bumps; it can be smooth and shiny, waxy, or pitted on the surface. Or it might appear as a red spot that’s rough, dry, or scaly…a firm, red lump that may form a crust…a crusted group of nodules…a sore that bleeds or doesn’t heal after two to four weeks…or a white patch that looks like scar tissue.
If all these variables sound confusing, the most important thing to remember is this: Get to know your skin and examine it regularly, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. (Don’t forget your back.) If you notice any unusual changes on any part of your body, have a doctor check it out.
Malignant melanoma is usually signaled by a change in the size, shape, or color of an existing mole, or as a new growth on normal skin.
Watch for the “ABCD” warning signs of melanoma:
Asymmetry-a growth with unmatched halves.
Border irregularity-ragged or blurred edges.
Color-a mottled appearance, with shades of tan, brown, and black, sometimes mixed with red, white, or blue.
Diameter- a growth more than 6 millimeters across (about the size of a pencil eraser), or any unusual increase in size.