How well do you maintain your health? If you do it well, you should be aware of warning signs of developing severe diseases such as cancers. Do you know how to spot the signs of melanoma skin cancers?
There are three skin cancers: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma skin cancers. In this post, our sole focus is on preventing the development and identifying the signs of and the effective treatments against melanoma skin cancers.
What are Melanoma Skin Cancers?
Melanoma is the most severe type of skin cancer. Its development begins in the skin cells called melanocytes, which produce melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its color. The exact cause of melanoma skin cancer is unknown, but experts identified everyday habits among those suffering from melanoma. People who expose themselves to too much ultraviolet (UV) radiation tend to get this particular type of cancer. Exposure to UV radiation comes from too much sunlight or tanning lamps and beds.
The risk of melanoma is high in adults below 40 years old, especially women. Knowing the warning signs of developing melanoma can help prevent the disease from worsening and spreading. Melanoma is more treatable the earlier it is detected.
How to Spot the Warning Signs
Melanoma skin cancers can grow anywhere on the body. But as we’ve already discussed, UV radiation is a common denominator among melanoma patients. Therefore, we can say that areas most exposed to UV rays are the most at risk of melanoma.
The most common body sites where melanomas can form are the back, legs, arms, and fade. Melanoma can also occur in spots that don’t get too much sunlight (such as soles); hidden melanomas are more common among people with darker complexions. Although melanoma can form inside your body, such as in the nose, throat, or eyes, those cases are sporadic.
Here’s how you can detect growing melanoma cancer cells:
A Change in an Existing Mole or the Birth of a New Mole
The first symptom you can look for is a change in an existing mole. A regular mole is uniform in color – whether that is tan, black, or brown. And the border separating the mole from its surrounding skin should be distinct.
They should either be oval or round and no more than a fourth of an inch (6 mm) in diameter. Moles may change how they look or even disappear as you age. But some changes in a mole are a giveaway that it is a developing melanoma cancer.
There is an acronym that will help you identify a growing melanoma cancer cell. The abbreviation is ABCDE. The acronym stands for:
- Asymmetrical shape: moles should be round or oval. If the moles have irregular shapes, that’s a sign of melanoma skin cancers.
- Border irregularity: notched, scalloped, and irregular borders around moles are characteristics of melanoma cancers.
- Color changes: moles should be uniformly black, brown, or tan. A mole with different shades of these colors plus white, grey, red, or blue is a sure sign of melanoma.
- Diameter: any mole larger than a fourth of an inch (6 mm) is a dangerous sign. A fourth of an inch is right about the size of a pencil eraser.
- Evolving: If the mole is becoming, you should be alarmed. Signs of evolution include changes in size, shape, color, and appearance or growing in a site of previously normal skin. Additionally, if the melanoma is increasing in a pre-existing mole, the mole becomes hard and lumpy.
In some cases, melanomas may cause skin lesions that bleed or ooze, but they do not cause pain. That is different from common lesions, which itch.
Are You at Risk of Developing Melanoma?
Risk factors that may indicate a higher chance of melanoma are:
- Fair skin – less melanin (the substance that makes the skin darker) means you have less protection from dangerous levels of UV radiation. You are likelier to develop melanoma skin cancers if you freckle or sunburn easily than someone who has a dark complexion. Having dark skin does not necessarily mean that you are safe from this type of cancer, though.
- Severe sunburn history – your risk of melanoma increases the more you have severe, blistering sunburns.
- Excessive UV exposure – though there are other unknown contributors to skin cancers, UV is major. Too much exposure to UV rays from sunlight or tanning beds increases your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.
- Melanoma in your family history – you have a higher risk of developing melanoma if a close relative has had the disease.
- Too many moles or irregular moles – having more than 50 moles at once indicates an increased risk of melanoma. Also, having irregular moles may mean you have melanoma cancer.
- Living near the equator or at a higher elevation – the sun’s rays are more direct near the equator; therefore, people living near the equator get more UV rays. Also, living in a higher elevation means you receive more UV rays.
- Weakened immune system – the immune system safeguards the body from diseases. Thus, a weakened immune system means you are likelier to get diseases like cancer. Disorders like AIDS or medicines you take after an organ transplant suppress and weaken the immune system.
Prevention is Better than Cure
Here are ENT’s tips for preventing melanoma skin cancers.
- Avoid the sun at its strongest. The sun’s rays are strongest around the middle of the day.
- Wear sunscreen all year whenever you go out. The sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 30. Apply it generously and re-apply every two hours or more often if you sweat or swim.
- Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with tightly woven clothing and wear a broad-brimmed hat. Also, wear sunglasses that block both UVB and UVA rays.
- Minimize tanning beds and lamps. Tanning beds and lamps emit UV rays which increase your chances of developing melanoma skin cancer.
When to See a Doctor
Any skin abnormalities that grow and change quickly and don’t vanish should immediately prod you to see a medical professional. Bleeding may be a more severe sign of melanoma – you may need medical attention as soon as possible! If you are concerned about an abnormal skin formation, consult a doctor or a dermatologist immediately.
ENT Allergy and Sinus Center specialize in skin cancer care. If you worry about melanoma skin cancers, reach out to us at 330 602-8833.