Skin Cancer Screening and Evaluation of your Moles

Why is it important to find your skin cancer early?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US with 1 in 5 Americans being diagnosed in their lifetime. Therefore it is very important to have a full skin exam done by a dermatologist every year to identify possible cancers, treat pre-cancers such as actinic keratosis, and to follow any atypical moles you may have.

What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?

You can use ABCDE to help identify skin cancer. A is for a mole or spot that is asymmetrical. B is for if the borders of the spot are irregular. C is for changes in color, or if the color is not uniform or even throughout the mole. D is for if the diameter is getting larger or growing. E is for evolving or if that spot is different from the rest or changing. Signs that are concerning include if a spot is growing, changing shape, bleeding or itching. If it is caught early and removed, skin cancer has a high cure rate.

Types of Skin Cancer

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. It most often appears on sun-exposed skin, such as the face, scalp, neck, hands, and arms. Obviously living in Arizona, we are exposed to sun in greater amounts, making all types of skin cancer more frequent here. However you may also find BCCs on other parts of the body too that aren’t exposed to sun.

BCCs often grow slowly and may look like a non-healing reddish patch of dry skin, a flesh-colored pearl-like lump, a pimple that doesn’t go away, a returning sore that bleeds and heals, or a waxy scar.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is another common type of skin cancer. It usually appears in sun-exposed skin, such as an ear, face, bald scalp, neck, or arm, however it may appear anywhere on the body.

SCC can appear on badly burned skin, after exposure to radiation or x-rays, or after exposure to strong chemicals.

Without treatment, it can grow deeply and spread to other parts of the body. SCC often looks like a reddish bump or patch which is scaly, an open sore that recurs, or a scaly patch on the lip.

Melanoma is less common and often appears in an existing mole or looks like a new mole. When treated early, melanoma is often curable; however melanoma can often spread to other areas of the body, and it is the most deadly form of skin cancer.

Melanoma often appears as a mole that is growing and changing in shape or color, or one that scales, oozes or bleeds. It may also look like a new fast-growing mole, or a new painful, itchy spot that may bleed. They can also look like brown or black streaks underneath your fingernail or toenail or a bruise on your foot.

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