An innocuous-looking spot could sometimes actually be something much worse than it looks.
Along with the outdoor happy hours that are in line and weekends planned at the beach, summertime also calls for an important reminder when it comes to skin cancer risk.
Since you’re probably spending most of the time in the sun probably wearing fewer clothes, it becomes exceedingly important to take note of any surprisingly new or different growths that might develop on your skin.
“Most skin cancers are mostly not symptomatic,” Alexander Sekulic, M.D, and principal for Standing up for cancer research melanoma team and Mayo Clinic dermatologist, told in an interview with SELF.
That means that a cancerous spot probably won’t hurt, or even go as far as not itch most of the time. “From time to time, people will find that a spot which is red and scaly has become redder, inflamed and tender, but most of the time true cancers are asymptomatic.”
So how can you find out if a spot is suspicious or not? “What to look for largely depends on the type of skin cancer,” Sekulic says.
Here, he puts forward one of the biggest signs so that you might be careful beforehand of any potential red flags.
Melanoma, which is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. This kind of cancer is usually pigmented in nature and will generally resemble a mole.
“What we should be really looking for is a change in the mole, that’s the most noticeable thing as well as the easiest thing to look out for,” Sekulic says.
The American Academy of Dermatology has been using the acronym ABCDE for recognizing a melanoma—any time that you notice a newly formed mole or that an old mole has started looking different, watch out for these signs:
If you imaginarily cut it down through the middle and one side of it looks dissimilar from the other, it is said to be asymmetrical.
The border of the mole:
In the case of a normal mole, the border should be traditionally smooth. Do you find it to be irregular, scalloped, or ragged? “That may be considered as a warning sign,” Sekulic says.
The color of the mole:
Usually, the mole should be of a uniform color. If the mole is of three or four multiple colors instead of one uniform color, you must be suspicious.
“If it’s clearly larger than a basic 6 millimeters, or the general size of a pencil eraser, we tend to make it a subject of our interest,” because melanoma is found mostly in larger moles.
“Any change in a previously existing spot or even a mole is something that should be looked at closer,” Sekulic says.
That also includes a noticeable change in size, shape as well as color, or even if the mole starts to bleed without being provoked. “Sometimes the spot might even disappear.”
The rate of change of anything on your skin is generally very relative, so it’s exceedingly important to know what’s usually healthy on your skin and when things start to change.
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
Basal cell carcinoma is one of the most common types of skin cancer on earth;
SCC is taking the second prize. “Many of them might start as tiny, unsuspicious spots, and if they’re not treated on time, they might get bigger,” Sekulic says.
Luckily, both of them are curable and can be easily removed with surgery, though removals can often lead to scarring. In some rare cases, they can even grow deeper and spread out.
Though some of the signs are more accurate for one or the other, the general symptoms for both are the same. Stay on a lookout for:
A red, scaly patch on skin:
A red, itchy spot on the skin that just doesn’t resolve in a few weeks’ time with the help of moisturization can most likely be SCC.
These might often itch, but sometimes they do not and can be easily misleadingly be confused as eczema.
A bump that won’t stop bleeding:
This might look just like any normal little bump or a pimple that begins to ulcerate.
A shiny bump:
This nodule is usually of the color pink, red, or white. However, it can also turn out to be tan, black, or brown and look like just a regular mole.
The border will likely be slightly elevated, and the center indented and maybe even crusty.
A scar-like spot:
This can be a sign of an aggressive form of BCC, so if you notice a white or yellow scar-like spot that appears shiny, see your dermatologist ASAP.