I recently had a scare myself and will be having surgery tomorrow to remove an abnormal mole. It was a mole I've had my whole life, but the dermatologist thought it looked suspicious and biopsied it. The diagnosis came back as possible Melanoma… I was freaked (knowing what I know). Since it wasn't very conclusive we got a second opinion and it came back as just abnormal. So tomorrow a mole specialist will be removing a larger section of my skin to make sure that it is all gone, leaving no chances for the mole to come back. I was so relieved to hear that I was in the clear but it made me realize that it could happen to anyone. So here comes the part where I share a little bit of what I know.
First of all, EVERYONE needs to get a full skin exam by a dermatologist. In regards to how often this is done depends on your skin type. If you are a moley person or sunburn easily, it's probably a good idea to go once a year. If not, you should still go once every couple of years. In between visits, it's always a good idea to check yourself out. Make sure to check your back, between your toes, bottom of your feet and finger nails. Even your scalp needs to be checked. Your hairstylist can look for you next time you have an appointment. You would be surprised how many cancerous moles are found in these areas.
What you need to look for:
You should become familiar with your birthmarks, blemishes, and moles so you know what they look like and can spot changes. As you examine your skin, look for changes in the size, color, shape, or texture of a mark on your skin.
Signs of skin cancer include:
- Mole that is different from the rest, itches, bleeds, or is changing in any way — even if the mole is smaller than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser)
- Sore that never fully heals
- Translucent growth with rolled edges
- Brown or black streak underneath a nail
- Cluster of slow-growing, shiny pink or red lesions
- Waxy-feeling scar
- Flat or slightly depressed lesion that feels hard to the touch
If you see anything like this contact your dermatologist as soon as possible. Research shows that early detection of skin cancer can save your life. When detected early, most skin cancers can be successfully treated.
There are three main skin cancers that you should be aware of.
Basal Cell Carcinoma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basal_cell_carcinoma
It is the most common type of skin cancer and is usually found on sun exposed areas of the body. It is very treatable and is rarely life threatening, but can still cause a lot of damage due to scars left behind from surgery. Statistics show that 3 out of 10 Caucasians will develop this cancer. It may appear as a bump or growth showing pearly or waxy, white or light pink, flesh-colored or brown characteristics.
Squamous cell carcinoma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squamous_cell_carcinoma
This is the second most common type of skin cancer and is also typically found on sun exposed areas of the body. Squamous cell is a little more aggressive then Basal cell but caught early enough it rarely metastasizes. This cancer most often looks like a scab. It can look thick, scaly, red and inflamed. Squamous cell does not heal and may intermittently bleed.
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It is extremely important to catch this cancer before it reaches the deepest part of the skin where it is most likely to metastasize. If this is caught early enough, it is nearly 100 percent curable. Unlike the other two skin cancers, this one can appear anywhere on the body and isn't necessarily caused by sun damage. Although, sun/tanning booths are a factor in many cases. The majority of melanomas are black or brown. However, some melanomas are skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white. The following information is from http://www.skincancer.org/the-abcdes-of-melanoma.html.
I hope this information has been helpful. Remember, I am not a medical professional. If you have any questions regarding your skin please contact a dermatologist. Always remember that sun tan lotion. You may not tan as quickly as you like but it may save your life.