According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately 132,000 cases of melanoma and 2 to 3 million non-melanoma skin cancers diagnosed worldwide annually.
Signs of skin cancer can be subtle and difficult to identify, which can result in a delayed diagnosis. Being aware of the 7 most typical warning signs is the best way to prevent the most serious or fatal outcomes of a skin cancer by ensuring its earliest possible detection and diagnosis.
The 7 Signs
1. Changes in Appearance
Changes in the appearance of a mole or lesion is the simplest way to identify that something may not be right. While melanoma is the least common form of skin cancer, it is also the deadliest. Melanoma often appear as regular moles, but usually can be differentiated by some distinct characteristics. Use the ABCDE method to remember and detect these differences:
The shape of the mole or lesion in question does not have matching halves.
The edges of the mole or lesion are not clear. The color seems ragged or blurred, or may have spread into surrounding skin.
The color is uneven. Different colors such as black, brown, tan, white, grey, pink, red or blue may be seen.
If the suspicious mole or lesion changes in size there may be a problem. Increasing is more regular, but shrinking may also occur. Melanomas are typically a minimum of ¼ inch, or the size of a pencil eraser.
New moles or strange patches of skin, or clear changes of a mole should be paid serious attention.
The Cancer Council has recently updated this method and included the EFG diagnosis guidelines.
ELEVATED moles that seem to stick out further on your skin.
FIRM moles that are hard when you touch them.
GROWING moles that are increasing in size rapidly.
It is important to note that new moles may indicate the presence of melanoma, but also the moles you have had long-term, even since birth, can turn cancerous as you get older. It is important to check all moles on your body regularly, paying attention to their appearance and also noting suspicious symptoms such as itching or oozing.
2. Post-Mole-Removal changes to your skin
Although you may have had a mole removed that does not ensure that you are no longer at risk of cancer in that area. Cancer cells can spread deep into the skin, far deeper than the mole that sits on the surface. Pay attention to the removal scar and have any unusual spots or colors that appear on or around the scar checked.
3. Fingernail and Toenail changes
Skin cancer can develop in places you may not expect, such as under your fingernails or toenails. These occurrences, which are usually melanoma, can be noticed as dark spots or streaks below the nail. Keep an eye on your nails. If you wear nail polish, check your nails between applications. Make sure your fingernails and toenails are free of nail polish before arriving at your MoleSafe Skin Surveillance Program appointment.
4. Persistent Pimples or Sores
Sometimes skin cancer presents as a pink or red bump that looks like a pimple. However, this bump will not disappear over time. Skin cancers can also appear as or cause sores and ulcers that will not heal.
5. Impaired Vision
Melanoma can develop within your eyes. Ocular Melanoma (OM) can be difficult to detect until its later stages when symptoms usually emerge. Routine eye exams is the most reliable way of detecting OM early. OM will eventually cause symptoms such as blurry vision, increased “floaters” (the squiggly cells that you can see moving in front of your vision), or dark or discolored spots close to the iris. The likelihood of OM increases with age.
6. Scaly Patches
Dry, rough or scaly patches of skin can be a symptom of some types of skin cancer. If after applying moisturizing products the patch of skin in question remains scaly or rough to the touch it could be cancerous. It may be a lesion known as Actinic Keratosis (AK), which is a precursor to Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). AKs usually appear on body parts that have more exposure to sunlight, including the scalp, and become more common with age.
7. Persistent Itching
If you are experiencing an itching sensation that will not desist it may be caused by a skin cancer. Often mistaken for bug bites, a mole or lesion that is newly itching or itching persistently or intensely, may have turned cancerous. Do not ignore this sensation, especially if it is accompanied by a change in appearance to the region of skin in question, and seek professional assessment as soon as you are able.
Know your risk
Anyone can develop skin cancer, but some people are at higher risk of the more serious forms of cancer. Our free, quick and easy Risk Assessment tool will help you identify your personal level of risk. Contact MoleSafe to schedule a Skin Surveillance Program appointment today.