Skin cancer signs vary widely in severity and type according to cancer type. Catching these signs as a part of early cancer detection can save your life. Skin cancer is caused by exposure to damaging UV rays from the sun. People who live in places that allow for high exposure are at increased risk. Arizona is one of the sunniest states in the US, with over 300 days of blue skies and sunshine each year. Those who live at higher elevations are also at risk because UV rays are more powerful at higher altitudes. Arizona’s average elevation is 4,100 feet which is in excess of the 2,500 ft average for the United States as a whole. Flagstaff, Arizona sits at 6,909 feet, and the highest point in all of Arizona is over 12,000 feet. At areas of lower elevation, Arizona is primarily desert with very warm winters and little shade to protect its denizens from the sun. Factors such as these are a big reason why skin cancer is such high risk for Arizona residents. Seeing the signs early is paramount to cancer survival.
Skin Cancer Signs to Pay Attention to
Most skin cancers start and are indicated by changes to your skin. These are some possible skin cancer signs that you need to heed.
A New Growth– If there is a new growth that is noticeable and fast growing, it may be precancerous or an indication of abnormality.Most people do not normally develop new moles after the age of 30, and growths developed thereafter should be observed closely. Other cancers may present as nodules under the skin that are usually firm and may shiny or red, with or without pain. It is important to have all new growths examined by a medical professional.
Scaliness or Scaly Patches– The development of scaly, crusty patch is oftentimes an indication of a precancerous lesion called actinic keratosis (AK). These are mostly seen on skin that has soaked up too many UV sunrays and been badly damaged as a result. Actinic keratosis lesions are precursors to squamous cell carcinoma, which is the second most common form of skin cancer in the United States.
Changes to an Existing Growth– Any change to an existing mole or other growth in size, elevation, color, shape or any other trait is highly suspect. Spreading pigment is also an indication. Commonly used are the “ABCD” guidelines for changes that may be skin cancer signs. (These warning signs may be present in new growths as well)
- A– Asymmetry- Asymmetry happens when one half of a mole or spot is different than the other. A benign mole is not asymmetrical.
- B– Border Irregularity- An irregular edge, or border, that is poorly defined (may be notched or scalloped). A benign mole will have smooth, well defined, even borders.
- C– Color Variation- Inconsistent coloring within the mole, with a variety of shades and colors. A benign mole will be one color, malignant growths may be different shades of tan, black, white, brown, red or even blue.
- D– Diameter- A general rule of thumb is anything larger than a pencil eraser (¼ in) should be examined.
Unusual Healing, Discharge and/or Sensations– A sore that does not heal within the usual time frame, or does not heal at all, is very often seen in conjunction with these other symptoms. Also, if there is any oozing or bleeding from a skin spot as well as any sudden pain, itchiness, or tenderness may be a sign of cancer.
Arrowhead Health Centers’ Skin Cancer Screening
The number one tool against cancer is prevention. Survival requires early detection, which requires knowing and recognizing potential signs. Noticing any changes that may be a sign of skin cancer can be a frightening, life-changing experience. Arrowhead Health Centers’ innovative Skin Cancer Screening Clinic specializes in skin cancer diagnosis, treatment, support, and education. Our unique Clinic offers the convenience of an office visit with a provider who specializes in skin cancer screening. We use state-of-the-art equipment to examine and monitor suspicious moles and lesions. If you’re experiencing any of these signs, or if you’d like more information on skin cancer prevention and detection, contact us at (623) 777-5587.