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Do You Know the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer?

There’s nothing like a beautiful sunny summer day in the South Bay. But enjoying the sunshine also increases your risk of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lives. Even more alarming, the risk of skin cancer goes up as you get older. That’s because skin cancer is caused mainly by Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. As you age, you have more cumulative sun exposure. But there’s good news.

“The cure rate for skin cancer could be 100% if all skin cancers were brought to a doctor’s attention before they spread,” says THIPA dermatologist Susan Goodlerner, M.D. “That’s why it’s critical for you to know the early warning signs so you can tell your doctor.”

Actinic Keratoses WARNING SIGN #1: Actinic Keratoses

“These small, scaly red patches commonly occur on the head, neck, or hands,” says Dr. Goodlerner. “These precancers are very common in people over 50.”

basal Warning Sign #2: Basal Cell Cancer

Basal cell cancer is the most common skin cancer, making up 90% of all skin cancers in the U.S. “Basal cell may be a spot or mole that bleeds frequently or doesn’t heal,” says Dr. Goodlerner.

squamous WARNING SIGN #3: Squamous Cell Cancer

Squamous cell cancer may be a spot or mole that “grows up quickly.” It may feel hard, rough or look red.

Melanoma WARNING SIGN #4: Melanoma

Melanoma is the most serious skin cancer. If not treated early it can spread and be fatal. Fortunately, melanoma is curable if detected early. “In men, it’s often found on the trunk, head, and neck,” explains Dr. Goodlerner. “In women, melanoma often develops on the lower legs.”

Use the ABCD rule to remember melanoma symptoms:

A = Asymmetry (one half of the mole, birthmark or pigmented area looks different than the other half)

B = Borders that are irregular

C = Color changes or more than one color

D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser.

An early melanoma can appear like a dark black mole and may be the size of a pin-head, so pay attention to any new black moles.

“If you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, tell your primary care physician or dermatologist right away,” says Dr. Goodlerner.

You can visit a THIPA dermatologist any time without a referral. That’s because dermatology is one of eight specialties included in our self-referral roster.