Skin Cancer: What You Need to Know

Skin Cancer: What You Need to Know

Every year, millions of people expose their bare skins to sunlight in order to get a beautiful tan. However, exposure to ultraviolet rays also increases the risk of developing skin cancer. In fact, according to statistics published by the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the leading form of cancer in the US. In addition, cases of melanoma in young women have increased by 800% since 1970. Meanwhile, for young men, the increase is 400% during the same period. People who use tanning beds also increase the risk of developing melanoma. As such, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies tanning devices under cancer causing agents.

Melanoma Overview

This type of cancer forms in the cells of the skin that produce color (melanocytes). When you expose your skin to ultraviolet rays, the mentioned cells essentially make more pigment. As a result, your skin darkens or tans. Melanoma can develop on any part of the body. However, it usually tends to form on the legs and arms. In some cases, melanoma can also form in your eye tissues (intraocular melanoma). Risk factors for developing melanoma include:

• Exposure to natural or artificial ultraviolet rays (accounts for 80 percent of all melanomas).

• Age (tends to affect older people).

• Ethnicity (more prevalent in Caucasians).

• History of sunburns.

• Family history of developing moles.

Melanoma Symptoms

You should always check your skin for any abnormal growth, as well as the appearance of moles. By using the ABCDE rule (A stands for asymmetry, B for border irregularity, C for color, D for diameter, and E for Evolution), you should be able to spot and evaluate nearly every unusual change on your skin. Some of the early warning signs that should raise a red flag include changes in skin consistency, elevation, sensation, and surface texture. If you do not detect the early signs, late symptoms may include painful lesions, bleeding moles, or gray skin.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you have any of these symptoms, it is advisable to consult a qualified doctor as soon as possible. The doctor is likely to conduct a physical examination of the skin and take skin samples to run additional tests. In addition, total body photography may also be necessary. If the tests are positive for melanoma, treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. After treatment, you should see your doctor regularly for checkups and evaluation of your recovery.

There are several types of skin cancer. For melanoma, the symptoms include skin moles larger than 6mm, change in skin color, change in the size or shape of a mole, as well as irregular skin growth. With that in mind, you should see a doctor if you exhibit any of the mentioned symptoms.

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