The number of men and women diagnosed with some form of skin cancer has steadily been rising with each passing year in the United States. Whether it’s Squamous Cell Carcinoma, Basal Cell Carcinoma or the deadliest version known as Melanoma, the chances of developing one of these cancer variations is more likely than ever. When it comes to fighting and treating skin cancer, early detection is key. Part of being able to get a head start on skin cancer is recognizing the symptoms and signs that are often associated with skin markings such as moles, sun spots and even birthmarks. While some individuals such as those with fair skin are automatically placed at a higher risk for developing skin cancer at some point during their lifetime, it’s important that individuals of all skin types take the time to know and recognize the potential warning signs. Whether you are a person prone to moles, freckles and sun spots or only sport very few, making regular skin examination a regular part of your skincare routine is a good way to stay ahead of a skin cancer diagnosis down the line.
Pigmented cells that present on the skin as small dark spots are referred to as moles. There is a potential for moles to present in a variety of color and sizes, but the majority of moles show up initially during childhood. The average individual has anywhere from 10 to 40 moles on their body. The majority of moles on the human body are found to be harmless. As long as a mole remains true to its original size and color, there’s not much reason for concern. Some individuals who are particularly prone to moles may choose to have them removed at some point due to general discomfort, aesthetics or wanting to eliminate the worry surrounding the potential for future skin cancer development.
Where moles become concerning is when they begin to fluctuate in any way at all. Moles that change in size, color or texture should be examined by a physician as soon as possible. Similarly, moles that present with irregular edges or borders may need to be biopsied or removed depending on how progressive the condition is.
Of all the potential causes leading to the development of skin cancer, medical professionals point to sun damage as the primary culprit. Whether a short amount of time is spent under UV rays or an extended period of time such as at the beach or under tanning lights, the skin is bound to be damaged and the change in DNA at a cellular level can quickly lead skin cancer. While excessive exposure to UV rays will often present as a painful sunburn, sun spots are brown or red changes in pigmentation that tend to show up gradually over time. Dermatologists recommend wearing sunscreen any time you plan on being outdoors and wearing protective clothing such as long sleeves and hats whenever possible to avoid exposure. Between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm are when UV rays are at their strongest and it’s advisable, particularly for those at high risk for skin cancer, to avoid exposure during these peak times.
Arriving as soon as we’re born, birthmarks clearly aren’t caused by exposure to the sun but can become a problem later on in life if the version of birthmark carried isn’t identified early on. While birthmarks such as port wine stains and strawberry marks carry no risk of developing into cancer, those known as Congenital Gian Melanocytic Nevus come with a high risk of eventually transforming into Melanoma. While Melanoma is the least frequently diagnosed form of skin cancer compared to Squamous Cell Carcinoma or Basal Cell Carcinoma, it is by far the deadliest. Melanoma comes with a risk of quickly spreading to other areas of the body if left untreated for an extended period of time.
No matter what type of skin you’re in, being aware of the risk associated with the development of skin cancer is becoming increasingly more important. Dermatologists and medical professionals recommend that everyone perform a self-examination at least once a month looking for any noticeable changes or concerns across the entirety of skin, paying special attention to moles, birthmarks and sun spots. Beyond this exam, it’s important to schedule an annual checkup so a professional can evaluate your skin as well.
When it comes to proactive skin care in the prevention of skin cancer, there’s no reason to wait. Contact Dr. Wright and his team at the St. Louis Laser Lipo and Vein Center today for more information on the full range of services we provide related to skin care including skin cancer screenings, annual appointments and treatment options in the event of a skin cancer diagnosis.