Signs of Skin Cancer

Signs of Skin Cancer

Diagnosis and treatment

When we think of skin cancer, the word melanoma comes to mind. Much good work has been done over recent years to bring the dangers of this particular form of skin cancer to public attention and to warn against the effects of exposing unprotected skin to sunlight. Melanoma accounts for less than 3 percent of all skin cancers diagnosed each year in the United Kingdom. Statistics for the United States show that the likelihood of developing melanoma are currently just 0.2 percent overall.

Nonetheless, it is the fastest growing of all cancers (particularly in the hotter, sunnier climates of the world), but it is both preventable and treatable. These days, when we are constantly being warned about the dangers global warming may present to our planet, melanoma is an unwelcome reminder of what the environment may be doing to our bodies.

Types of Skin Cancer

The most common symptom of melanoma is a mole on your body which is getting bigger, changing shape or color, becoming itchy or painful, bleeding, becoming crusty or appearing inflamed. Moles displaying three or more different shades of brown or black are especially likely to be indicative of melanoma.

Non-melanoma skin cancers account for more than 96 percent of all skin cancers. The most is basal cell skin cancer. This cancer develops in basal cells, which are at the deepest layer of the outer skin or epidermis. Developing mainly in areas of the body exposed to the sun, it can also occur on the back or lower legs and is often diagnosed in middle-aged and elderly people.

Basal cell cancer generally starts with a small, round bump, which is often shiny. These cancers are slow growing, taking months or even years to develop. They rarely spread to other parts of the body, but can damage the eye, ear or nose if they grow near them.

The second most common non-melanoma skin cancer is squamous cell skin cancer, accounting for about 20 percent of all skin cancers. This occurs in the upper layer of the epidermis. Once again it is most common in areas exposed to sun, but can occur in scar tissue, areas of skin which have been burned (other than by sun exposure) and areas of skin which have been ulcerated for a long period of time. Sometimes it can even occur in the genital area.

Squamous cell skin cancer tends to be darker and more raised than basal cell cancer, and is quicker to develop. All these forms of skin cancer can be confused with benign skin conditions, and require medical laboratory analysis for confirmation.

As a general rule, if you have an area of skin which is raised, discolored, bleeding, changing shape or otherwise giving you cause for concern and it has not healed up after four weeks, go see a doctor.

By Colin Morely