Just the word “cancer” can cause an immediate reaction such as fear or sadness and a sense of the possibility that you or a loved one diagnosed with cancer can die from it. It takes so many lives and devastates families. Even if you are to beat cancer, it will usually entail chemotherapy, which is physically demanding and will cause a drastic change in your body. Chemo makes you so weak and sick it hardly seems worthwhile. But there is a chance, no matter how slim that many cancers can be beaten. Because skin is the largest organ of the body, the danger from skin cancer, melanomas especially, is above all others.
Be Aware of the Signs
I think most people are aware that one of the biggest indicators of melanoma is a mole. This doesn’t mean that having moles means you have or will get skin cancer. However, anyone with a mole or multiple moles should be cognizant of their appearance and monitor them frequently for any changes. A mole is simply a cluster of skin cells gathered in one area rather than spreading out as other skin cells do. These cells, called melanocytes, are what give skin its color and when they gather in a cluster they make a mole.
Melanoma is the most dangerous of the types of skin cancers, but it is not the only one. Both basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, even though they are the most curable and rarely fatal, can be trouble when not caught in time. Melanomas, when not detected early can spread throughout the body, aka metastasizing,
What Does Cancer Look Like?
The mnemonic ABCDE is used to tell the types of moles that may be cancerous so if you have any of the markers for skin cancer, it is best to see your doctor right away. A is for asymmetry. This describes a mole or other skin lesion that is not the same shape on all sides. B is for border. Skin cancers have ragged or blurry edges and appear to be leaking color into the surrounding skin.
C is for Color. Moles should be the same color and ones that have different shades such as brown, black, tan or even pink or blue can be a sign of skin cancer. D is for diameter. The meaning of this symptom relates to a change in a mole, in particular, growing. Even shrinking can mean cancer, but most get bigger. E is for evolving and represents a change in a mole within a few weeks or months.
When to Seek Medical Treatment
The majorities of moles never cause any issues and remain just a harmless group of cells. If you notice any atypical moles, aka dysplastic nevi, examine the mole for the ABCDE signs. Those with a family history of skin cancer from moles should be more vigilant, but everyone should be knowledgeable about what to look for as evidence of skin cancer. Sun exposure is known to cause skin cancer so limiting time outdoors without sunscreen is recommended. Severe sunburns in childhood can lead to skin cancer later in life, but everyone should limit sun exposure to be safe.
If you have any signs of skin cancer lesions, the quicker you seek treatment the more chance you have to beat skin cancer.