Skin cancer refers to the abnormal, uncontrolled growth of skin cells appearing anywhere on the body. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 1 in 5 people will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Risk factors include pale skin, family history of melanoma, being over 40 years old, and regular sun exposure.
Skin cancers vary in shape, color, size and texture, so any new, changed or otherwise suspicious growths or rashes should be examined immediately by a board-certified dermatologist. Early intervention is essential to preventing the cancer from spreading.
The most common types of skin cancers are:
- Basal cell carcinoma – 80-85% of all skin cancers. Basal cell carcinoma affects cells in the lowest layer of the epidermis.
- Squamous cell carcinoma – 10% of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinoma affects cells in the middle layer of the epidermis.
- Melanoma – 5% of all skin cancers. Melanoma is a rare but very dangerous type of skin cancer. It is the leading cause of death from skin disease.
To identify melanoma early, know your ABCDEs:
Asymmetry: a mole, growth, or brown spot that is not symmetrical (irregular in shape) may be melanoma.
Border: most moles have smooth borders; melanomas typically have uneven, ragged borders.
Color: most moles are all one shade of brown; melanomas may be several different shades of brown, red or blue.
Diameter: Most moles are smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser; melanomas tend to be larger.
Evolving: Moles can change over time. A mole that is changing – becoming larger, changing color, developing a bump, itching or bleeding – should be seen by a dermatologist immediately.
Fortunately, skin cancer is almost always curable if detected and treated early.
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