The month of May is the traditional start of the outdoor living season here in Michigan, and with the return to gardens, parks, and beaches comes the increased risk of excessive ultraviolet light exposure. May is also, quite appropriately, Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Not all skin cancers are due to sun exposure, however, so even if you faithfully use high-SPF sunscreens and protective clothing, you may still be at risk. Skin cancer can be quite survivable, however, particularly with early detection.
Understanding types of skin cancer and knowing the three signs that may indicate it’s active will help you know when it’s time to have that spot or mole checked out by the health care professionals at Lakeshore Ear, Nose and Throat Center.
The most common cancers
Skin cancer is not only the most common type of cancer, it’s also the most preventable. However, it’s not a single cancerous condition. In fact, there are three major types of skin cancer, two of which are usually associated with sun exposure and one that isn’t. These types are:
You can develop melanoma anywhere on your body, starting from an existing mole or on otherwise normal sections of skin. For men, melanoma usually appears on the face or the abdomen, while women usually develop it on their lower legs. Melanoma can occur anywhere, including on skin that’s not usually exposed to sunlight.
Basal cell carcinoma
One of the major forms of skin cancer that’s linked to sun exposure, basal cell carcinoma usually occurs on your face, neck, and other exposed skin. This type of cancer can look like a waxy or pearly bump, a scab that may bleed, heal, and reoccur, or as a flat lesion that’s flesh-colored or brown.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Though squamous cell carcinomas most commonly occur on sun-exposed skin, people with darker skin may develop these in other places as well. This type of skin cancer may appear as a flat, scaly or crusted lesion or as a nodule that’s firm in texture and red in color.
3 signs you might have skin cancer
Being aware of common risk factors for skin cancer can also help you determine if you need to be vigilant about changes in your skin. The big three include:
- Family history: If more than one person in your family has had skin cancer, your chances are higher, so you should schedule a baseline skin examination as well as learning effective self-check techniques.
- Unusual moles: Though sometimes the appearance of moles changes with time, cancerous moles typically look much different than others you’ve had most of your life, usually with irregular shape or coloration.
- Sores that don’t heal: If a sore or lesion doesn’t clear up in about a month, it’s time to have it checked, particularly if one has occurred in the same spot before
Even if these skin changes turn out to be benign, regular self-examinations of all parts of your body, including areas that require double mirrors or a partner to check, will keep the risk of skin cancer at bay. For a comprehensive check of moles or lesions, particularly on the face and neck, call or click to schedule an appointment with the most convenient office of Lakeshore Ear, Nose and Throat Center. When it comes to skin cancer, you’re better safe than sorry.