The biggest risk factors for developing skin cancer are childhood sunburns, lifetime sun exposure and genetics. We recommend daily use of broad spectrum SPF 15 sunscreen, and the use of broad spectrum water and sweat resistant SPF 30 or higher sunscreen every 2 hours when vigorously active outdoors.
Skin cancers can show up in many shapes and sizes. Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you. Warning signs include: a sore that does not heal, spread of pigment from the border of a spot to surrounding skin, redness or a new swelling beyond the border, a change in sensation such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain, or a change in the surface of a mole such as scaliness, oozing, or bleeding.
Moles and Melanomas
Most moles are harmless. Changes in a mole’s size, shape, or color may be a sign that melanoma is developing. A normal mole is usually an evenly colored dark to light brown or tan spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised. It can be round or oval. Moles are generally less than ¼ of an inch across. A mole can be present at birth, or appear during life. Moles can fade away in later years. New moles that appear after age 30 should be checked by a doctor.
Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin Cancer. The most important warning sign for melanoma is a new spot on the skin or a spot that’s changing in size, shape, or color. Another important sign is a spot that looks different from all of the other spots on your skin. The ABCDE rule is another guide to the usual signs of melanoma. Some melanomas do not fit the rules described above, so it’s important to tell your doctor about any changes or new spots on the skin, or growths that look different from the rest of your moles.
Basal and Squamous Cell Cancers
Basal cell cancers and squamous cell cancers are most often found in areas that get exposed to a lot of sun, but they can occur anywhere on the body. Look for new growths, spots, bumps, patches, or sores that don’t heal after several weeks. Shaving cuts that don’t heal in few days sometimes turn out to be skin cancers.
Basal cell carcinomas often look like flat, firm, pale areas or small, raised, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps that may bleed after a minor injury. They may have one or more abnormal blood vessels, a lower area in their center. Large basal cell carcinomas may have oozing or crusted areas.