How to Spot Skin Cancer

How to Spot Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is both the most common type of cancer in the US and it can be the deadliest if not caught in time. A yearly skin exam is the best way to diagnose and treat skin cancer early, and it is a specialty at RefinedMD. The good news is that skin cancer usually develops slowly and often gives plenty of warning signs before it becomes serious. When caught early, skin cancer can be addressed by a simple biopsy. Often, the site of the skin cancer is removed in a quick in-office procedure.

It is important not only to do your own self-mole checks but also to see a dermatologist regularly. Most Americans do not see a dermatologist unless they see this professional for aesthetic issues such as acne. However, you should see a dermatologist annually just like you see a GP for a checkup. Spotting skin cancer takes practice, and only a trained eye can truly conduct a comprehensive check. Still, think of self-mole checks like those monthly self-breast exams: You know your body best, and you are the best person to tell if something’s amiss.

The basics

Whether you never used sunscreen as a child or you have already had cancerous moles removed, it is never too late to start a sunscreen regimen. Not only does SPF applied every two hours whenever you are outside prevent burns and blisters, it also prevents cancers and wards off fine lines and wrinkles. However, sunscreen is not just for the outdoors; if you’re indoors but near a window, those harmful UV rays are still at work.

Not all skin cancer starts as a changing mole, but many do. However, it is still important to know that skin cancer can and does occur without a mole ever serving as a red flag. This is one of the many reasons it is crucial to see a dermatologist regularly. Otherwise, memorize the ABCDs of moles: asymmetry, border irregularity, color, and diameter.

What to watch

Not all moles with different colors, large diameters, or that aren’t totally symmetrical are cancerous; in fact in most cases they aren’t. Sometimes they are, and if you notice a mole changing or just do not feel comfortable with one in particular, there is no harm in getting it checked. A reputable dermatologist will listen to your concerns and a tiny biopsy is all it takes to see if the mole is cancerous. If it is not but you still want it removed, you will simply have a mole removal procedure that is often covered by your insurance.

Unfortunately, there are many areas of your body (such as your back) where you cannot do self-checks and this is where a quid pro quo agreement can come into play. If you have a significant other, you can check each other’s hard to see spots. Otherwise, a friend or family member can be utilized as an aid. Staying on top of worrisome moles is your best defense against one of the fastest growing cancers in the country, and annual skin checks by a professional are critical.

Common Skin Cancer Myths

There are various types of skin cancers, and any type of cancer can have a lot of misinformation about it. At RefinedMD, patient safety is our top priority. Although many clients come to the clinic for esthetic issues, it’s always a good idea to undergo a skin check at least once per year. This is the best way to catch and treat skin cancer as early as possible.

A few of the most common myths include:

  1. Skin cancer isn’t a big deal. Any cancer is a “big deal.” However, when skin cancer is caught early, the treatment is often removal of the cancerous area without the need of radiation or chemotherapy. If the cancer progresses, more serious treatments are likely needed.
  2. I can’t get skin cancer if I don’t have any moles. Moles are one of the biggest indicators of skin cancer, but cancer can certainly occur without a tell-tale mole.
  3. I can’t get skin cancer if I have darker skin. Although fairer people with a lot of moles have higher rates of skin cancer than others, anyone can get skin cancer. Those with more melanin simply have better natural defenses against sun damage. This doesn’t make them immune.
  4. I always wear sunscreen, so I won’t get skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen is a must and it will drastically reduce your odds of getting skin cancer, but it’s not a guarantee. Plus, many people don’t use sunscreen as recommended, which means reapplying liberally every two hours.
  5. Living in a cloudy region means skin cancer isn’t a “thing” here. The more exposure you have to the sun, the higher your risk of skin cancer. Still, there are people in cloudy regions who are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.

When was your last skin check? Schedule one today by calling RefinedMD today or connecting with us via the online form.