Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, affecting about 3.3 million Americans each year. Thankfully, most of those cancers are slow-growing and highly treatable. But more than 100,000 of those men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma, an aggressive type of skin cancer that can be life-threatening.
As with other types of cancer, melanoma responds best when it’s caught early. While regular skin cancer screenings are essential for early diagnosis, knowing what signs to look for on your own is also very important.
The team at Desert West Surgery offers state-of-the-art treatment for skin cancers, including melanoma. In this post, they review some of the early warning signs to look for.
Because melanoma is aggressive, the lesions or spots it causes on your skin tend to change their appearance rapidly. The first thing to look for is any new mole or lesion that changes in size, shape, or color. These lesions need to be checked by our team as soon as possible.
To make it easier to know what to look for, the National Cancer Institute offers the ABCDE rules:
Imagine a line running down the middle of a mole or spot. Do both sides look the same? If there’s a big difference between the two — an asymmetry — then there’s a greater chance it’s a melanoma.
Most common moles and noncancerous lesions have even edges or borders. Melanomas are more likely to have ragged, notched, scalloped, or uneven borders.
While most moles are a single shade of brown or tan, melanoma growths frequently have different colorations, like pink, black, white, or even blue. Melanomas often have more than one color, like more than one shade of tan or brown or mixed with another color. Some very rare melanomas are colorless.
Melanomas can grow pretty quickly. Any growth that’s larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser should also be checked right away.
Because melanomas are aggressive, they can change in appearance pretty quickly, too. If you have a lesion that varies in size, shape, color, or elevation, or if a lesion starts to bleed, crust, or itch intensely, it needs to be evaluated by our team as soon as possible.
In addition to the ABCDE guidelines, you should also look for any mole or growth that looks different from surrounding moles. This is called the ugly duckling sign, and it’s a quick but crucial way to identify potential melanomas early.
Melanomas are more common in areas that have had a lot of sun exposure, but they can occur anywhere on your body — even on your palms, the soles of your feet, or under your fingernails and toenails, where they usually show up as a dark spot.
Even with the ABCDE rules, melanomas can be difficult to spot on your own. Plus, some melanomas can appear where you can’t easily check on your own. Scheduling regular skin exams is the best way to catch any skin cancer — and treat it — as early as possible.
To schedule your skin cancer screening or have a suspicious mole or lesion checked out by our team, call today or book an appointment online at Desert West Surgery.