Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer found in United States residents, but luckily it is also one of the most easily cured types.

Causes of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is almost always the result of too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light is mainly found in sunlight but also in tanning booths and sun lamps. While researchers used to believe otherwise, both UVA (long-wave) and UVB (short-wave) rays can cause cancer.

The process of tanning is actually your body’s attempt to protect itself from the harmful parts of rays from the sun. Even if you don’t get a sunburn, you can increase your chances for skin cancer any time you get tan—including in a tanning booth.

Most skin cancer occurs on the parts of the body that are the most exposed to the sun: the head, neck, face, tips of the ears, hands, forearms, shoulders, back, chest, and lower legs. However, skin cancer can be found anywhere on the body.

Melanoma vs. Nonmelanoma

There are two types of skin cancer: melanoma and nonmelanoma.

Melanoma shows up in the skin cells that make a pigment called melanin. Although it accounts for less than 2% of all cases of skin cancer, it leads to more deaths than nonmelanoma skin cancer does. It is aggressive and, if not found early on in its progression, can easily spread throughout the body.

Nonmelanoma is much more common and easy to treat, in part because it grows slowly and doesn’t spread to other organs.

Nonmelanoma skin cancer is further divided into two types, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. They get their names from the levels of the skin at which they occur.

Skin Cancer Symptoms

Skin cancer has a variety of symptoms, but the most telling is a bump, growth, lesion, mole, or rough patch of skin that is new or has changed.

A normal mole, which is perfectly harmless, can come in shades of flesh colors from light to dark and has well-defined and clear edges. It’s usually round or oval, flat or dome-like, and less than ¼ inch in diameter.

When checking your moles for skin cancer, there’s a handy acronym, ABCDE, that can help you remember what to look for. Anyone of these signs can be a signal of skin cancer, so it’s important to bring it up with your doctor as soon as possible.

A: Asymmetry. It’s an irregular shape—if you folded the mole in half, the two sides wouldn’t match.

B: Border. The edges of the mole blur into the surrounding skin or are jagged in form.

C: Color. If the mole changes in color, you might have a problem on your hands. This could mean darkening, losing color, spreading color, or developing multiple colors.

D: Diameter. A mole more than ¼ inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser) could be a sign of skin cancer.

E: Evolving. The mole looks different from others on your skin or changes in shape, size, or color.

Skin cancer could also look like:

Self-Examination for Skin Cancer

A regular skin check is a good idea, and all it takes is a full-length mirror and a handheld one.

First, learn over time where your birthmarks, moles, and blemishes are and what they look like. See if they’ve changed.

Then, look at the skin all over your body. This includes the front and back of your body, your sides, your palms and forearms, your upper arms, the back and front of your legs, between your buttocks and around your genitals, the bottoms of your feet, between your toes, and your face/neck/scalp. If you have long or thick hair, you can use a comb or a blow dryer to separate hair so you can better see the skin.

Don’t be afraid to make a doctor’s appointment if you find anything unusual. The earlier skin cancer is caught, the easier it is to treat!

Treating Skin Cancer

If your doctor suspects you have skin cancer, they will do a biopsy—they will remove a small piece of skin to send to a lab for testing.

If you are, in fact, diagnosed with skin cancer, you will probably undergo more tests to see if the cancerous cells have spread into other parts of the body. These tests might include a CT scan, an MRI, or a lymph node biopsy.

How treatment proceeds depends on several factors, including the type of cancer, the location, the size, the spread, and your overall state of health.

Most nonmelanoma cancers can simply be surgically removed. Doctors might also recommend freezing, medicated creams, or laser therapy.

Melanoma treatment presents more challenges. Melanoma caught early on can be surgically removed, but if it’s spread beyond the skin then that isn’t an option. Instead, doctors might recommend:

Even if your skin cancer is successfully dealt with, you need to continue to be vigilant for any changes on your skin and get regular check-ups.

Preventing Skin Cancer

The possession of certain traits can increase your chance of developing skin cancer, like:

To avoid developing skin cancer, the basic principle is to avoid damaging your skin with UV rays. Here are some guidelines:

Following these guidelines is especially important for children since childhood sunburns cause the most permanent damage.


To learn more about Skin Cancer, please visit https://www.skincancer.orgfor more information.

If you have even a small suspicion you might have skin cancer, don’t wait to make an appointment with your family doctor!


You Might Also Enjoy...

Safe Fun in the Sun

Everyone has done it. It is a beautiful day and you decide to go outside to work in the garden or go swimming or take a walk. Read More

Benefits of Losing Weight

It seems that everyone is trying to lose weight these days.  There are many choices out there – the Paleo diet, the Keto diet, the low-carb diet, the low-fat diet, the high-protein diet, Intermittent Fasting, and on and on. But why?  Learn More

Lupus – A Patient’s Perspective

Lupus is a rare disease that is commonly misunderstood. Detecting, diagnosing and treating Lupus can prove challenging as the symptoms appear sporadically and many times seem unrelated. Learn More

Management of Chronic Conditions

Chronic conditions are those diseases that will be with you for the rest of your life. Conditions such as arthritis, hypertension, or diabetes (to name a few) are conditions that can be managed but may not go away. Learn More

The Skinny on Weight Loss

Nearly everyone knows there is an obesity epidemic in the United States. Texas reports over 30% of its population is obese. Read More