It is estimated that more than 95% of skin cancers are caused by or related to UV radiation from the sun. However, UV radiation can also come from other sources such as tanning beds and solariums. When skin is exposed to UV radiation, the behaviour and structure of your skin cells can change, leading to extensive damage over time and in the worst cases, causing cancer cells to develop. One of the best ways to help protect your skin from UV damage and radiation is to cover up in the heat of the day and to always wear a high UV protection sunscreen of at least SPF50+.
If left unchecked, skin cancer can be deadly, so keeping an eye on your skin is so important to your health. There are 3 main signs that you should be looking out for:
The Cancer Council recommends that you get your skin professionally checked at least once a year. If you’re considered more at risk due to light features, having a high number of moles or you work out in the sun, you can opt to have professional checkups more often. The Cancer Council also suggests that you should do self-checks every 3 months from the comfort of your own home.
Regular skin checks will help you spot any changes in your skin that require closer inspection. These changes include moles or skin tags that weren’t previously there, moles that have changed size or colour, and anything else on your skin that may seem unusual. These signs can be indicative of skin damage or skin cancer and should always be assessed by professionals to determine if they are benign or malignant. Early detection is pivotal to your health and could be the difference between successfully treating the changes in your skin and becoming very sick.
Checking for skin cancer is pivotal to your health as catching any kind of cancer early is the best way to ensure you can overcome it. If you are worried about cancer, the best thing to do is ask your doctor for advice on catching it early. However, there are also a few things you can do to make sure you can spot the signs early yourself.
The first step is to get to know your own skin. The only way to work out when something is different is to know what your skin is like ordinarily. Skin cancer is not usually painful and is usually spotted by seeing signs rather than feeling them. For this reason, your best way to check for them is to look over your own skin frequently. You should be looking for any new spots, freckles or moles.
It is essential to check all over your body as skin cancer signs can develop even in unexpected areas or places that don’t ordinarily see the sun. Take extra care to check unexpected areas like your face and scalp, neck and shoulders, front and back of your arms as well as armpits, front and back of your hands, under your fingernails and between the fingers, your legs and the soles of your feet as well as between your toes.
When checking over your skin, it is important to have good light and can help to undress completely so that you can see every area of your skin. For more difficult-to-see areas, you can try using a mirror but it is a better idea to get somebody else to help you so that you can be sure there are no changes.
There are three most common types of skin cancer which can be identified by different characteristics in moles. Here are the changes you should look for that could signify each.
Melanoma – As the deadliest form of cancer, melanoma is the most important to look out for. It can manifest as a new spot or a spot that already exists changing in colour, size or shape. It can also surface on skin that isn’t usually exposed to the sun so make sure to check all over your skin.
Nodular melanoma – This is another form of melanoma that looks different but which is characterised by fast growth, it can be raised and is usually red or pink, but it can be brown or black too. These are firm and in the shape of a dome. After some time, they may start to bleed and even crust over.
Basal cell carcinoma – As the most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma is one to be wary of. It can be red, pale or pearly and is usually seen as a lump or a dry, scaly area. It can turn into an ulcer or other not heal entirely. They usually grow fairly gradually and can be found in areas exposed to the sun regularly.
Squamous cell carcinoma – Most commonly found in those over the age of fifty, squamous cell carcinoma is seen as a thick, scaly spot that is usually red and can bleed, crust and ulcerate. It ordinarily takes a few months to grow and is most commonly found in areas that are exposed to the sun.
You can follow the ABCDEF model to spot melanoma early. This stands for asymmetry, border, colour, diameter, and evolving and explains what changes you should look for to identify melanoma.