An understanding early detection of skin cancer is crucial to prevent experiencing the more serious and dangerous form of skin cancer. From the least to the most dangerous, they are: basal cell carcinoma (or basal cell carcinoma epithelioma), squamous cell carcinoma (the first stage of which is called actinic keratosis) and melanoma.
Cancer is defined as the abnormal growth and division of cells in the body. If this errant growth is restricted to a few cells then it poses no threat to humans. Should it start to spread unchecked by the body’s immune system then it becomes what is termed malignant or cancerous.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can be harmful to the skin and is the main cause of of skin cancer. According to the US National Institutes of Health it damages the DNA that regulates the skin cells. Excessive and long-term exposure to UV, either naturally from the sun or from artificial sources such as sunlamps can lead to skin cancer. In a lesser amount of cases skin cancer can also be inherited genetically.
Asymmetry means irregular shape. Dividing the mole in half with an imaginary line, the top half should look very close to the bottom half or the right side the same as the left side if the mole is normal or benign. Therefore, benign or non-cancerous and non-malignant moles are usually symmetrical or look the same on both sides of the dividing line. If the mole is irregular in shape and both sides do not compare well then this is an indication of a possible skin cancer problem.
Border refers to the outside edge of the mole or spot. A normal or benign mole or growth has smooth and even outer borders. A problematic growth has borders that are described using many different terms such as notched, jagged, scalloped, poorly defined, uneven, or even blurred. In summary, these terms are simply describing an irregularity or lack of smoothness in the borders of the mole or growth.
Color is also one of the five signs of skin cancer. In this case, look for whether the mole has an even color or hue. If the mole has more than one hue, then this could be a cause for concern. Benign growths are generally one color, hue, or shade. Brown is often the normal color, but not always. Cancerous moles can have shades of black mixed into shades of brown or tan. Dashes of red, white, and blue may also appear as the cancer progresses.
Diameter or the size of the mole or growth is one of the five skin cancer signs to be aware of. If the growth is larger than 6 mm or a quarter of an inch, then medical attention should be pursued. In relative terms, the eraser on the end of a pencil is about 6 mm in size. Of course, it is less likely, but possible that growths smaller than this size can be cancerous. Any mole growing in size is a concern and should be examined by a medical professional.
Evolving. The mole has been changing in size, shape, color, appearance, or growing in an area of previously normal skin. Also, when cancer develops in an existing mole, the texture of the mole may change and become hard, lumpy, or scaly. Although the skin may feel different and may itch, ooze, or bleed, cancer usually does not cause pain.
If you find that any change in the texture of the skin, contact your doctor immediately. Any change in skin pigmentation can be a sign of skin cancer.
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