Menstuff® has information on various Skin Cancers.
The Warning Signs of Skin Cancer
The small, scaly patches caused by too much sun exposure commonly
occur on the head, neck, or hands, but can be found elsewhere.
They're the early beginnings of skin cancer. Actinic keratosis
usually appears on people after age 40, but they can show up in much
younger people. Fair-skinned, blond, or red-haired people with blue
or green eyes are most at risk. Early treatment is advised to stop
progression to squamous cell skin cancer.
Related to actinic keratosis, actinic cheilitis is a precancerous
condition that usually appears on the lower lips. Scaly patches or
persistent dryness and cracking of the lips may be present. Less
common symptoms include swelling of the lip, loss of the sharp border
between the lip and skin, and prominent lip lines. Actinic cheilitis
may evolve into invasive squamous cell carcinoma if not treated.
The cutaneous horn appears as a funnel-shaped growth that extends
from a red base on the skin. It is composed of compacted keratin (the
same protein in nails). The size and shape of the growth can vary
considerably, but most are a few millimeters in length. Squamous cell
carcinoma is often found at the base. It usually occurs in
fair-skinned elderly adults with a history of significant sun
A mole (nevus) is a benign growth on the skin. While very few
moles become cancer, abnormal or atypical moles can develop into
melanoma over time. Normal moles can appear flat or
raised or may begin flat and become raised over time. The surface is
typically smooth. Normal moles are round or oval and no larger than a
pencil eraser. Most moles develop in youth or young adulthood.
Its unusual to acquire a mole in the adult years.
Atypical moles are not cancer, but they can become cancer. They
can be found in sun-exposed or sun-protected areas of the body.
Atypical moles are larger (one-quarter inch across or larger) and
more irregular in shape, with notched or fading borders. They may be
flat or raised or the surface smooth or rough. They are typically of
mixed color, including pink, red, tan, and brown.
Most moles on a persons body look similar to one another. A
mole or freckle that looks different from the others or that has a
diameter larger than a pencil eraser or any characteristics of the
ABCDEs of melanoma should be checked by a dermatologist. It could be
cancerous. The ABCDEs are important characteristics to consider when
examining your moles or other skin growths, so learn them in the
slides to come.
Asymmetry means one half of a mole does not match the other half.
Normal moles are symmetrical. When checking your moles or freckles,
draw an imaginary line through the middle and compare the two halves.
If they do not look the same on both sides, have it checked by a
If the border or edges of the mole are ragged, blurred, or
irregular, have it checked by a dermatologist. Melanoma lesions often
have uneven borders.
A mole that does not have the same color throughout or that has
shades of tan, brown, black, blue, white, or red is suspicious.
Normal moles are usually a single shade of color. A mole of many
shades or that has lightened or darkened should be checked by a
A mole is suspicious if the diameter is larger than the eraser of
a pencil. Benign moles are usually less than 6 millimeters in
If a portion of the mole appears elevated, or raised from the
skin, have it looked at by a doctor. Melanoma lesions often grow in
size or change in height rapidly. A mole that is
evolvingshrinking, growing larger, changing color, begins to
itch or bleedshould also be checked.
Examine your skin after a shower while skin is wet. A common
location for melanoma in men is on the back, and in women, the lower
leg. But check your entire body for moles or suspicious spots once a
month. Start at your head and work your way down. Check the "hidden"
areas: between fingers and toes, the groin, soles of the feet, the
backs of the knees. Check your scalp and neck for moles. Use a
handheld mirror or ask a family member to help you look at these
areas. Be especially suspicious of a new mole. Take a photo of moles
and date it to help you monitor them for change. Pay special
attention to moles if you're a teen, pregnant, or going through
menopause, times when your hormones may be surging.
If you find a mole or spot that has any ABCDEs of melanoma
-- or one thats tender, itching, oozing, scaly, doesnt
heal or has redness or swelling beyond the mole -- see a doctor. Your
doctor may want to remove a tissue sample from the mole and biopsy
it. If found to be cancerous, the entire mole and a rim of normal
skin around it will be removed and the wound stitched closed.
Additional treatment may be needed.
Malignant melanoma, especially in the later stages, is serious and treatment is difficult. Early diagnosis and treatment can increase the survival rate. Nonmelanoma skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Both are common and are almost always cured when found early and treated. People whove had skin cancer once are at risk for getting it again; they should get a checkup at least once a year.
Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that usually begins in a mole.
It is not as common as other types of skin cancer, but its the
most serious and potentially deadly. Possible signs of melanoma
include a change in the appearance of a mole or pigmented area.
Consult a doctor if a mole changes in size, shape, or color, has
irregular edges, is more than one color, is asymmetrical, or itches,
oozes, or bleeds.
This nonmelanoma skin cancer may appear as a firm red nodule, a
scaly growth that bleeds or develops a crust, or a sore that doesn't
heal. It most often occurs on the nose, forehead, ears, lower lip,
hands, and other sun-exposed areas of the body. Squamous cell
carcinoma is curable if caught and treated early. If the skin cancer
becomes more advanced, treatment will depend on the stage of
Bowen disease is also called squamous cell carcinoma "in situ." It
is a type of skin cancer that spreads outward on the surface of the
skin. By contrast, "invasive" squamous cell carcinomas can grow
inward and spread to the interior of the body. Bowen disease looks
like scaly, reddish patches that may be crusted; it may be mistaken
for rashes, eczema, fungus, or psoriasis.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common and easiest-to-treat skin
cancer. Because basal cell carcinoma spreads slowly, it occurs mostly
in adults. Basal cell tumors can take on many forms, including a
pearly white or waxy bump, often with visible blood vessels, on the
ears, neck, or face. Tumors can also appear as a flat, scaly,
flesh-colored or brown patch on the back or chest, or more rarely, a
white, waxy scar.
Uncommon types of skin cancer include Kaposis sarcoma,
mainly seen in people with weakened immune systems; Merkel cell
carcinoma, which is usually found on sun-exposed areas on the head,
neck, arms and legs but often spreads to other parts of the body; and
sebaceous gland carcinoma, an aggressive cancer originating in the
oil glands in the skin.
Sun exposure is the biggest cause of skin cancer. But it doesnt explain skin cancers that develop on skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. Exposure to environmental hazards, radiation treatment, and even heredity may play a role. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have:
Limit your exposure to the suns ultraviolet rays, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. While outdoors, apply sunscreen liberally (don't forget the lips and ears!), wear a hat and sunglasses, and cover up with clothing. And remember, if you notice changes to your skin such as a new growth, a mole changing appearance, or a sore that won't heal, see a doctor right way.