It’s not “just” skin cancer. It’s skin cancer.
Skin cancer as the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells, which occurs when unrepaired DNA damage triggers mutations and causes skin cells to multiply and form malignant tumors rapidly (source: Skin Cancer Foundation). Though it’s considered as the world’s most common cancer, skin cancer doesn’t get that much attention. People associate it with other skin disorders and neglect the fact that it’s a malignant disease that messes up with the human body’s largest organ.
Due to its resemblance to common, day-to-day skin problems, the symptoms of skin cancer often gets undetected. The symptoms look like normal spots, moles, pimples, and scratches and the patient will only realize its severity when it’s too late.
Awareness is the key. The harmless breakout you might be suffering from today or that weird-looking mole you recently noticed could be subtle signs of skin cancer. Be aware, check your skin, and seek advice from a dermatologist when you notice the following abnormalities which may be silent indications of skin cancer.
- Moles that are changing form
Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to Skin Cancer Foundation. It can appear anywhere on your body, though it commonly shows on your face, back, arms, and legs. One way to detect melanoma is by looking at your birthmarks – moles. If your moles are changing shapes and colors, getting bigger, and becoming itchy, painful, crusty, and prone to bleeding, maybe it’s time to seek a dermatologist.
Learning your ABCDE can help you tell the difference between a normal mole and a fatal melanoma:
Asymmetrical: A melanoma has an irregular shape and has two very different halves.
Border: It has a notched or ragged border
Color: It’s often a combination of two or more colors
Diameter: It is usually larger than 6mm or ¼ inch
Enlargement: It gets bigger over time
- A pimple that won’t go away
It’s annoying when a pimple lingers on your face and your favorite concealer can’t help you with your dilemma. However, if a pimple doesn’t resolve within two to four weeks and it’s firm to touch, the problem could be way beyond a cosmetic issue.
A pimple-like growth that doesn’t heal may not be a regular pimple in the first place but a sign of a nodular melanoma, which appears on the skin as a red nodule rather than a dark mole. It is one of the most dangerous types of melanoma which usually appears harmless-looking. The case should be diagnosed and removed as early as possible, preferably within two months, for it has a high potential of spreading and can be fatal.
- A scar you don’t remember
If you see a spot that looks like a scar but you can’t remember a history of getting injured or wounded, it might be an early sign of Basal Cell Carcinoma development, a type of non-melanoma cancer. Morpheaform, a type of BCC that has a scar-like appearance, is likely to be the cause. The scar-like thickening enlarges and it usually appears around the ears, nose, and temples.
- Scaly, pink patches
Pink spots don’t always indicate insect bites or allergy-induced rashes. In an article published in Bustle, dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, explains that if these pink, scaly patches don’t recover for months even with the use of moisturizers, these can be a sign of UV-related skin damage which is likely linked to skin cancer. Up to 16% of these pre-cancer spots can develop into a non-melanoma skin cancer, Shainhouse added.
Treatments like liquid nitrogen or chemical creams can destroy damaged cells, though you still ask for a physician for recommendations.
- Bruises on your nails
Getting bruises on your nail after an injury is normal. However, if you don’t recall any trauma and a random and new brown spot suddenly appears on your nail, it can be another sign of melanoma. The cancer can develop on the nail bed and in the nail matrix, usually of a thumb nail or a great toenail.
- White rings around a mole
The white rings developing around your mole are called “halo nevi.” The appearance of the halo nevi are often normal and the chance they are cancerous is very low.
However, if you notice something suspicious, like moles changing in color, shape, and texture, irregularity along the mole border, scaly and crusty patch of skin, or firm nodules, you should seek help from a dermatologist for evaluation.
- Any itching, bleeding, breaking, and non-healing spots
The cause of your irritated skin can be far worse than sensitive skin and allergies. Pay attention to scratches, spots, sores that itch, take longer to heal and break down and bleed again easily with minimal friction. The oozing and crusting of the spot should not be ignored. These non-healing and sensitive sores may be due to cancerous cells destroying normal tissues and can appear during early stages of most skin cancers.
About the author:
Carmina Natividad is one of the daytime writers for The Australasian College of Health and Wellness, a government accredited educational institution specializing in the discipline of health science. She spends most of her time writing articles focused on aesthetics and overall health and wellness.