Skin cancer normally occurs in individuals with lighter complexions, but no one is immune – anyone can get skin cancer. Most cases of skin cancer are caused by damage from the sun and indoor tanning; however, individuals with a large number of moles (50 or more), close relatives with skin cancer, actinic keratosis (a precancerous skin condition caused by sun damage), a history of transplant, and chronic wounds are at a higher risk for skin cancer.
There are many different types of skin cancer, but the most common is basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that usually occurs on areas of the body subjected to repeated sun exposure. Squamous cell carcinoma is another common skin cancer that often develops on parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun, but it can also occur on areas of the body typically protected by clothing.
Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer. A melanoma may arise within an existing mole or appear as a new mole with unusual features. There are also a number of other skin cancers including some rare, aggressive and fast-growing varieties. Any new, suspicious, or changing lesions should be evaluated promptly by a dermatologist.
All types of skin cancer are associated with recognizable skin changes – if you know what to look for. Take notice of all moles on your body and perform periodic self-skin checks to look for changes such as color variation, mole growth, oozing, bleeding, pain or itch. Other signs of skin cancer include:
- Red, scaly or dry skin that won’t heal
- Pimple that persists past a normal duration
- Skin-colored, pink or red growth or lump
- Recurring sore
- Waxy scar
- Flat, hard yellow or white growth
Treatment depends on the type and aggressiveness of the skin cancer, location of the cancer and the overall health of the individual. Your dermatologist may suggest surgery, immunotherapy, cryosurgery, topical chemotherapy, IV chemotherapy, photodynamic therapy or radiation therapy depending on which is the best option for you.
Remember to report any skin changes to a dermatologist as soon as you notice them. Early diagnosis of all types of skin cancers leads to better treatment outcomes and a better chance of cure.