The most common form of cancer in the United States, skin cancer affects more than two million people each year. Early detection is key to the successful treatment of skin cancer. If detected before the cancer penetrates the skin, the survival rate is about 99 percent. Left untreated, skin cancer can rapidly progress.
Skin cancer screenings are performed by your physician or a dermatologist during your annual exam. If you have particular questions about a skin condition or abnormality, please contact your physician.
Skin Self Exams
You can play an active role in detecting skin cancer by performing a monthly skin exam. Look for changes in color, size, appearance or shape of skin. Abnormal skin growth or changes in moles are also warning flags. Also, be aware of skin around injuries that doesn't seem to heal. Having someone close to you examine hard-to-see areas like your back is also beneficial.
Common Warning Signs
The following signs may be indicators of possible or future melanoma:
- Color: the color of the skin should be fairly uniform and not include a variety of colors.
- Size: moles should be smaller than a quarter inch.
- Edges: the edges of moles should be uniform, not jagged or irregular.
- Symmetry: both halves of a mole should be similar.
- Changes: Any changes to shape, color, size or response to touch.
Avoiding Skin Cancer
Fortunately, skin cancer is largely a preventable disease. Exposure to radiation, especially direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.), can be especially damaging.
Tips to help prevent skin cancer:
- Wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher.
- Reduce the amount of time spent in the sun during peak radiation hours.
- Avoid see-through clothes.
- Wear a hat.
If you have questions about skin cancer screenings or about skin cancer, please contact your primary care physician.