What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

 
More than 1 million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer this year alone. If you live in Colorado you will have a higher risk of these types of cancers because of our altitude and blue skies. It is very important that you know what to look for when doing a self-exam and when it is time to seek the advice of a physician.
 
It is essential to perform a regular skin check and to enlist the help of a spouse or other partner to help you check out areas you can not see. The exam should be done in front of a full length mirror so that you can see areas outside of your normal range of vision. 
  • First, examine your body front and back. Make sure to raise your arms and look at the right and left sides of your body. Women should look under their breasts.
  • Bend elbows and look carefully at your arms and armpits.
  • Check your hands, palms and in between all your fingers.
  • Look at the backs of your legs and behind your knees.
  • Check the soles of your feet and in between your toes. Don’t forget to examine your nails. Yes, cancer can grow underneath your finger and toe nails.
  • Examine the back of your neck and part your hair to examine the entire scalp.
  • Finally, check your buttocks and groin area. A hand held mirror is helpful for hard to see areas.
 
Skin cancers come in many shapes, colors and sizes. It is important to catch them as early as possible.
Basal Cell Cancers can be small and have a translucent color to them. They may pigmented or have small blood vessels on the surface. They may appear as an open sore that bleeds, heals, and than repeats the cycle. They are often raised with rolled edges and can be singular or clustered. They may appear as a waxy looking skin-colored, white or yellowish scar. Some basal cell cancers have depressions within them and may feel hard to the touch.

Melanomas involve about 4% of all skin cancers and are the deadliest form of all the skin cancers. They often develop in a pre-existing mole that begins to change or may appear within a new mole.   Keep in mind the ABCDEs of Melanoma Detection when doing your self-exam.
 
  • Asymmetry – One half of the lesion is a different shape than the other.
  • Border – Uneven or blurred borders.
  • Color – Melanoma can appear with more than one color. They can contain shades of tan, brown, red and black. They can also have areas that appear to be blue or white.
  • Diameter – Any mole that has been changing should be examined especially if it is about the size of a pencil eraser or larger.
  • Evolving – A mole or skin lesion that looks different than others in the same area and is changing in size, color or shape.
        
Other warning signs of melanoma can a mole that looks scaly, bleeds or oozes. The lesion may be itchy or painful. It may even appear as a bruise that does not heal. Look for streaks of brown or black under a nail.
 
Should you spot a suspicious mole or lesion, it is important to contact your skin care specialist or dermatologist immediately. Early detection is extremely important when treating skin cancers. 95% of Melanomas are curable if caught early.

Squamous Cell Carcinomas account for approximately 16% of all new skin cancers diagnosed in the United States. This type of skin cancer can appear as a crusted or scaly area with a red and inflamed base. They do not heal and may appear as an ulcerated bump or thickened skin on the lower lip. Some squamous cell cancers may look like warts or appear as a plaque formation. They may also look like red bumps or scaly patches.
 
Any suspicious lesion, bump or formation on the skin should be checked out by your doctor as soon as possible. Skin cancer if left unchecked can be deadly. Please, play it safe and have anything new or changing evaluated.