Signs and Symptoms of Melanoma

National Skin Cancer Awareness Month may be behind us, but with summer stretching ahead, now is a better time than ever to think about the impact of skin cancer and importance of sun protective behaviors. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, accounting for most skin cancer-related deaths. The American Society of Clinical Oncology estimates that more than 100,000 adults will be diagnosed with this disease in 2020 alone, with the number of cases having increased significantly during the past 30 years. The following are some of the most common signs and symptoms of melanoma that our Charleston, SC, Germain Dermatology team reminds patients to look out for during self-checks.

Melanoma occurs if the cells that give the skin color (melanocytes) begin to develop abnormally. The only way to know for sure if the skin lesion you’re concerned about is cancerous is to have it checked by a dermatologist. As symptoms of cancer vary widely, it can be difficult tell whether a mole is cancerous or not without careful scrutiny and—in many cases—a biopsy.

With that said, the ABCDE method offers some simple guidelines for what to watch for at home. Melanoma may present with one or more of these characteristics, so finding a mole that fits any of these criteria can be cause for concern:

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half isn’t identical to the other.
  • Border: Watch out for irregular or “blurry” borders, with pigment spreading to surrounding skin.
  • Color: Normal moles are typically a solid black, brown, or tan color. Melanomas are usually black or brown but may be mottled and can show uneven pink, blue, red or white.
  • Diameter: Many melanomas are larger across than a typical pencil eraser.
  • Evolving or Elevation: Be wary of moles changing over time or displaying new symptoms, such as bleeding.

Any new, unexpected growths or changes to existing spots on your skin should be closely monitored—especially if they develop different textures, weeping/bleeding, or itching. Another symptom sometimes associated with melanoma is partial loss of sight or growing dark spots forming on the iris.

This summer, you can practice sun safety by protecting your skin from dangerous rays. Stay out of sun when it is strongest (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.), apply high-SPF sunscreen frequently (even on overcast days), and wear protective sunglasses and head covers.

Find out more about prevention and treatment of melanoma and other forms of skin cancer from Germain Dermatology in Charleston, SC. Talk to us today by calling (843) 881–4440 or send us a message.

5 Skin Cancer Risk Factors to Consider

Ensuring the long-term health and beauty of your skin means always being diligent about sun protection—yes, even during the cool, mild weather associated with early spring in Charleston, SC. Skin cancer treatment and prevention are both important to our team at Germain Dermatology. Fortunately, this disease, which occurs due to the uncontrollable development of mutated skin cells in the surface layer of the skin, is highly preventable.

While skin cancer can appear anywhere on the body, it typically occurs on parts that receive the most sun exposure, such as the scalp, face, lips, neck, chest, hands, and arms. Note that growths can also show up on parts that are usually covered up.

Anyone who is concerned about skin cancer should consider the following risk factors.

Excessive Sun Exposure

Skin cancer risk rises with unprotected, prolonged or intense exposure to harmful UV radiation from the sun or artificial sources. Not wearing sunscreen or protective clothing increases your risk. People who live in hot climates or high altitudes are more susceptible. Cumulative skin damage from multiple blistering sunburns significantly raises the risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Skin Type

Skin cancer can occur on all skin tones and ethnicities. However, people who naturally have very fair skin that usually burns instead of tanning, red or blond hair, and light eyes are more prone to getting sunburned and developing skin cancer. These people typically freckle or redden easily.

Abnormal Moles

Having a large number of moles or unusual moles (dysplastic nevi) are factors that may be linked to skin cancer. Patients should monitor their skin for any spots or blemishes that look different from other moles and new growths.

Genetics

Your family history will also be a strong influence on your skin cancer risk. People who have close family members like parents or siblings who have had skin cancer should be more vigilant about protecting their skin.

Weakened Immune System

Some diseases, infections, and medications can cause a suppressed immune state that makes developing skin cancer more likely.

Want to learn more about skin cancer warning signs, prevention, and treatment? The Germain Dermatology team would be more than happy to address any questions or concerns you have. Visit us in Charleston, SC, call 843-881-4440 to speak directly with us, send a message online, or use our online booking tool to get in touch.

Skin Cancer: Checking for Signs and Symptoms

Skin cancer is a disease that involves the uncontrollable, accelerated growth of mutated cells in the top layer of skin. This form of cancer is caused by damage to the DNA, especially by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. While effective treatments are available, minimizing risk of developing skin cancer in the first place is ideal. When it comes to preventing skin cancer, Charleston’s Germain Dermatology emphasizes the importance of regular self-checks and routine screenings with your dermatologist.

Skin cancer usually appears on sun-exposed skin, but can also sometimes be found on areas that are normally covered up or hidden from view.

However, in addition to prematurely aging the skin, too much UV radiation—from natural or artificial sources—can also make skin more susceptible to developing skin cancer, which can manifest as lesions and tumors.

Though there are many types of skin cancer, it can be divided into three primary groups of general concern: basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. The more aggressive and deadly form, melanoma, can be fatal if left untreated, giving it the opportunity to spread to other organs.

Melanoma is closely linked to a history of intense sunburns experienced early in life and tends to show up as irregular-looking moles. Discovering and identifying such moles early is critical to maximizing cure rates.

Cancerous spots tend to have specific characteristics. In particular, watch for moles that are asymmetrical, have undefined borders, are strangely colored (red, brown, blue, or white), are larger than average, or are continually changing.

Fortunately, due to its typically highly visible nature, skin cancer can often be identified early. In that regard, monthly self-assessments are critical. Be sure to physically examine yourself from head to toe—and have someone look over parts that are difficult to see, such as the back. If you notice suspicious changes that concern you, a dermatologist can perform a total body skin cancer screening. This typically lasts between 10 to 15 minutes. If cancer is suspected, a further skin biopsy may be necessary for diagnosis.

Learn more about skin cancer screenings from Germain Dermatology. For general inquiries or to request a consultation, call the Charleston-area practice at (843) 881–4440 or fill out a contact form.