If you’ve worn protective sunscreens every day of your life since you were a child, you’ve undoubtedly reduced your risk for skin cancer, but you haven’t completely eliminated it. Some skin cancers are genetic and can even appear on areas of your body that never get exposed to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) A and B rays. About 3.3 million men, women, and children in the US are diagnosed with 5.4 million cases of skin cancer each year, making it the most common form of cancer overall.
Skin cancer risk increases as you age, which is why you should complete a monthly skin exam at home and a yearly screening test by a dermatologist essential parts of your self-care routine. Examining your body for new moles or lesions and keeping tabs on moles that change ensures that any potentially cancerous lesions are caught and treated early.
At Specialists in Dermatology in The Woodlands and Houston, Texas, our expert dermatologists are trained in a specialized type of skin-cancer removal called Mohs surgery. The in-office Mohs surgery cures about 99% of skin cancers, including basal cell cancers (BCC), and squamous cell cancers (SCC).
Melanoma is the most deadly form of skin cancer and can be identified by one or more signs that fall into the “ABCDE” categories. Following are the ABCDEs you should think of each time you inspect your skin. Be sure to check out-of-the-way areas, particularly if you have darker skin:
Take a photo of this page, or bookmark the link on your phone, so you have easy access to the ABCDEs each time you examine yourself. One or more of the following signs could indicate that your mole is cancerous. Call us right away for diagnosis and treatment if you notice:
A healthy mole should look basically the same on each side. If your mole, birthmark, or other lesion has two halves that don’t match, it may be a melanoma.
Ragged, scalloped, and notched borders could be a sign of melanoma.
Multi-colored and multi-hued lesions are suspicious. If you notice shades of brown, tan, and black, or if your mole has areas of red, pink, white, or blue, call us.
Although skin cancers may start small, if you notice that your mole or birthmark has grown larger than a pencil eraser, contact us at once.
Any lesion that changes its shape, size, or color is suspicious for melanoma.
Though BCCs and SCCs grow more slowly than melanomas, they’re still dangerous. A BCC grows underneath your skin, and may impair your nerves and muscles. Waiting too long to treat a BCC runs the risk of disfigurement, as the lesion may require extensive surgery.
An untreated SCC can spread to other areas of your body, including your mouth and lungs. Untreated SCCs also may appear as small lesions on the surface of your skin, but affect the deeper layers, which complicates excision.
When you conduct your skin exam, also check for the following signs that could indicate the presence of BCC or SCC:
Use a mirror, or ask a friend or family member to help you inspect hard-to-reach areas.
Although monthly exams are important, getting a professional skin cancer screening each year gives you extra peace of mind. If we notice a cancerous lesion, we can schedule your Mohs surgery or excision the same day.
To make sure your moles are healthy and you’re skin cancer-free, call us today. You can also book a skin cancer screening appointment online.