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.