What Are the Symptoms of Skin Cancer?
Healthy exposure to sunlight is an important part of getting your daily dose of vitamin D, but too much sun can be deadly. Besides accelerating the aging process by leaving dark spots, fine lines, and deep wrinkles, skin cancer is a sizable risk from excess sun exposure. Here are some early skin cancer symptoms to watch for and how to prevent this potentially fatal disease.
Skin Cancer Risks
Statistics from The Skin Cancer Foundation indicate that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer, while two people die of the disease in the U.S. every single hour. Those numbers are enough to give anyone pause, but many people simply don’t know what to do to protect themselves – or what they should be looking for in terms of skin cancer symptoms.
Skin cancer is caused primarily by excess exposure to the sun, but that can happen with just one blistering sunburn in childhood. The sun’s powerful UVA and UVB rays can both burn and prematurely age our skin, as well as cause skin cancers to develop over time. It’s important to note that skin cancer doesn’t necessarily develop after a bad sunburn; sometimes it can be years or decades later when skin cancer symptoms show up.
Early Skin Cancer Symptoms
Skin cancer is most often found in areas of the body frequently exposed to the sun. The forehead, nose, and cheeks are common areas affected, while the ears, scalp, arms, and hands are often affected too. Skin cancer can appear on the back, legs, and torso, and in rare cases, even on areas that are rarely or never exposed to the sun.
When performing a self exam, you want to look for anything new, growing, or changing in some way. This means keeping an eye on any existing moles that might be increasing in size, turning a different color, or changing around the border. These growths can be pearly and transparent, tan, brown, black, or even multicolored. Some are a solid color with speckled spots in the middle.
Also, look for any spot or sore that itches, hurts, bleeds, crusts over, or forms a scab continually. Another indicator could be an open sore that still doesn’t heal after three weeks. If you see any of these skin cancer symptoms, call your dermatologist right away.
Skin Cancer Treatment Options and Prevention
First, ensure you receive an annual skin cancer screening, especially if you’re high-risk or have a personal or family history of the disease. Early detection is crucial to effective skin cancer treatment, and a dermatologist will be able to determine what’s cancerous – and what’s not – and get a treatment plan in place. This could involve the use of lasers to remove a growth or lesion or physical surgery.
When spending time outdoors, wear an SPF 50 or higher sunscreen and an SPF 15 or higher even when inside. Stay in the shade when possible, cover exposed areas of the body with sleeves or wide-brimmed hats, and never use artificial light sources like tanning beds or booths.
Contact Louisiana Dermatology Associates
If you’re in Baton Rouge or the surrounding areas and need your annual skin cancer screening, or if you have noticed any early skin cancer symptoms, contact Louisiana Dermatology Associates today for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.