7 Key Indicators That You May Have Skin Cancer
So many of us spend countless hours taking in the sun’s harsh rays. Moreover, with that in mind, it is not a huge surprise that skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world. If you feel that you or a loved one may, in fact, be at risk of developing skin cancer, this is a great list to review. Following are top indicators that you may potentially have skin cancer and should have your problem area checked out by a medical professional.
7. Scaly Patches
One of the most common and earliest indicators of skin cancer comes in the way of small, scaly patches which can be caused by taking in too much sun. These rough patches often tend to be found on the head, neck, and hands and are called Actinic Keratosis (or Solar Keratosis); they are also typically found to be more common in older adults. Moreover, while the vast majority of these patches do not change or lead to becoming cancerous, many health care physicians still encourage early treatment (by just removing the patch) to prevent the development of squamous cell skin cancer.
6. Farmer's Lip
The notable cousin of the previous condition, Actinic Keratosis, is called actinic cheilitis or more commonly "Farmer's Lip." Farmer’s Lip is a fairly common pre-cancerous ailment of which tends to appear on the lower lip of an individual. Persistent roughness and even scaly patches may be present on the lip as well. Less common symptoms but incredibly important to make a note of may include: swelling of the lip(s), dominate lip lines and loss of the sharp border between the lip and skin. If the condition is left untreated, actinic cheilitis may, in turn, develop into an invasive squamous cell carcinoma.
5. Cutaneous Horns
Tending to appear most often in fair-skinned elderly adults with a history of significant sun exposure; the cutaneous horn begins to develop as a growth which extends from a red base on the skin in the shape of a funnel. It is made up of compacted keratin (which is the same protein that your nails are made of). It is a specialized type of actinic keratosis and the size and shape of the growth can vary significantly, however, the vast majority are only a few millimeters in length. Squamous cell carcinoma can additionally be found at the base of the horn.
A mole tends to develop more in youth or young adulthood and typically it is unusual to acquire a mole in the adult years; which is why they are important to monitor. Moles are a benign growth of melanocytes (cells that give skin its color), and though very few moles become cancerous, abnormal moles can lead to developing into melanoma over the course of time. Normal moles may appear flat, raised or begin flat and become raised over the years with the surface typically remaining smooth. Moles that have evolved into skin cancer, however, are often irregularly shaped, contain various colors, and are bigger than the size of a pencil eraser.
If you have noted a lesion on your skin that just does not seem to be healing, this may be a red flag of skin cancer. Why? Well, each form of skin cancer has its specific symptoms which are direct indicators that your health care physician makes a note of regarding diagnosis and additional treatment. All too often each of these forms of skin cancer shares one common indicator; sores that do not heal. If you have made a note of a sore on your body (particularly one that appears in an area that is commonly exposed to the sun) that does not heal within approximately four weeks, you need to set an appointment with your healthcare provider.
2. Skin Discoloration
You are of course quite familiar with your skin-tone, however, if you begin to notice it is starting to change in color in different any area of your body, if may be time to ask your doctor to have a look. Spots on skin with indistinct and irregular borders should be monitored closely. If pigment seems to be spreading from one spot on your skin with redness and/or swelling and any additional changes in sensation (itchiness, pain or tenderness, for instance), and in surface appearance (like bleeding, scaliness or oozing; or if red patch on your skin starts peeling or bleeding, these can all be warning signs of skin abnormalities leading to skin cancer.
Finally, it is important to trust your gut instinct. If you have spent years in the sun and want your body analyzed for any signs of skin cancer, you certainly should. Even those who have remained consistent in their usage of sunscreen and hat-wearing should take a precautionary measure and do a thorough body examination for any signs. It is invaluably important to trust yourself. Remember, if something just doesn’t look or feel right, or you are confident has changed and looks different, it is always better to be safe and not sorry; get in to see your doctor for an expert opinion.