Are you an avid outdoors man with constant exposure to the sun? Here are some signs of skin cancer and how you can protect yourself...
Did you know that one in every three cancers diagnosed is skin cancer and that one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer?
These are scary numbers, especially because there's nothing better than being outside, enjoying the sunshine.
But this doesn't mean you have to hide away from the sun, and that you can't enjoy being outdoors and taking advantage of sunny days. It just means you need to be sun smart.
Learn about the signs of skin cancer so that you're armed with the knowledge for early detection. And most importantly, look after your skin and take preventative methods so that you aren't the one in five.
Keep reading for everything you need to know!
Where Skin Cancer Develops
Typically, skin cancer develops on parts of your body that are frequently exposed to UV light — in other words, the sun. When thinking about those parts of the body, think about the spots that you'd usually lather sunscreen on because they're high risk. Once you have those in mind, you've found your most common skin cancer areas.
These include the scalp, lips, face, ears, neck, arms, and hands. Skin cancer on the legs is more common in women than men.
However, this doesn't mean that skin cancer never develops on areas of your body that don't see the sun. It's certainly not as common, but hidden areas such as your genitals are also at risk.
People with darker skin tones are more at risk of skin cancer developing in areas not usually exposed to UV rays, such as the soles of feet.
Noticing New Skin Changes
Most skin cancers start to develop on parts of the body that are visible. One of the earliest warning signs to look out for is new or unusual growth on your body or changes to existing moles.
Regularly checking your skin for changes is a good practice to ensure that if you see anything suspicious you can talk to a doctor and catch skin cancer early.
The type of skin cancer determines how it will present on your skin. It may present as a wound that doesn't go away, or simply a red nodule on the skin. Understanding your body and being aware of any changes is therefore extremely important.
The Signs and Symptoms of Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma typically develop in areas of your body exposed to the sun.
Look out for the telltale symptoms of basal carcinoma which include a waxy or pearly bump. a flat flesh-colored lesion or a returning bleeding or scabbing wound. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, typically affecting people with fair skin tones.
Squamous cell carcinoma presents differently. These symptoms may include a firm, red nodule or a flat lesion that has a scaly and crusty surface.
The Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma
Melanoma, along with the two types of carcinoma, is one of the most common types of skin cancer.
This type of skin cancer can develop anywhere on the body and is not necessarily concentrated in sun-exposed areas. It may develop on an existing mole that then becomes cancerous.
If you see changes in an existing mole, this may be an indication of melanoma. Look out for a change in size, color, or feel. If the mole bleeds, this may be a sign of melanoma. If your mole has hair growing out of it, it's likely to be a healthy non-cancerous mole.
Other than changes to an existing mole, there are other melanoma signs to look out for. Look for a large spot, brownish in color with dark speckles. You may also notice a small red, pink, white, or blue lesion with irregular borders. Sometimes a melanoma lesion is itchy or burns.
Lastly, if you notice dark lesions on sun-hidden spots, such as palms, soles, or genitals, it could be a sign of melanoma.
Symptoms of Rare Skin Cancers
The three skin cancer types mentioned above are the most common. However, it's important to always take note of skin changes and seek a professional opinion. Uncommon skin cancers may present as red or purple patches, firm and shiny nodules, or hard and painless nodules.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Exposure to UV light and radiation is the most common and highest cause of skin cancer. However, there are other factors that contribute to the risk of skin cancer. These include living in a high-altitude climate, a compromised immune system, and exposure to harmful substances such as arsenic.
So, how can you prevent skin cancer? The most important thing is to be sun smart by following these tips:
- Limit amounts of UV radiation
- Stay out of the sun in the middle of the day to prevent sunburn
- Wear UV protective clothing when you're outside and cover-up
- Use sunscreen with a high SPF all year round
- Don't use tanning beds
- Don't be fooled by overcast days — the sun burns through clouds
- Wear hats when you're outside
Most importantly, examine your skin regularly so that you notice any new changes as soon as possible. If you notice suspicious changes that concern you, visit a doctor.
It's a good idea to visit a dermatologist once a year for a complete checkup to make sure everything is in order. Your skin deserves the same love and attention that the rest of your body gets.
Look Out for the Signs of Skin Cancer
While skin cancer is a very common type of cancer, it's also one that you can actively work to prevent. Take measures to be sun smart, avoiding sunburn skin, tanning, and spending hours in the sun without skin protection. And always keep a lookout for the signs of skin cancer so that you can catch it early.
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