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Summer Sun Safety Month: How to Detect Skin Cancer

Summer Sun Safety Month: How to Detect Skin Cancer

Checking regularly for skin cancer is a crucial step to protect yourself against the disease, as early detection makes treatment more likely to be successful. It's recommended that adults self-check their own skin at least once every three months, and have their doctor check it once a year. There are multiple types of skin cancer, so be certain you know what you're looking for!

Skin Cancer Detection


The carcinoma varieties of skin cancer typically grow on the parts of the body that get the most sun exposure, such as the face, head, or neck. They can show up anywhere, but pay special attention to parts of your body that have been exposed excessively to the sun.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

A basal cell carcinoma usually looks like a raised, smooth, pearly bump on the skin. Other signs include:

  • Unusual skin areas: Flat, firm, pale, or yellow areas, much like a scar.
  • Patches: Raised reddish patches that may be itchy.
  • Bumps: Small, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps. Typically pink or red, may also have blue, brown, or black areas.
  • Growths: Pink growths with raised edges and a depressed center that may have blood vessels expanding outward from it.
  • Sores: Open sores that may have oozing or crusted areas. They either don't heal or return after healing.

    Squamous Cell Carinoma

    A squamous cell carcinoma tends to be a scaly bump or patch. Look for these signs:

    • Patches: Rough or scaly red patches, sometimes crusting or bleeding.
    • Lumps: Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a depressed center.
    • Growths: Wart-like growths.
    • Sores: Open sores that may have oozing or crusted areas. They either don't heal or return after healing.

    Types of Melanoma


    Though melanoma is one of the most common types of cancer within the United States, it is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Approximately 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and 85% of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. By raising awareness of the dangers of unprotected exposure and encouraging sun-safe habits, behaviors can be changed and lives can be saved.

    It's imperative to talk about melanoma prevention, as well as how to properly detect it. The guideline "ABCDE" is extremely useful for identifying malignant melanoma:

    • Asymmetry: Where one side of the lesion or mole does not look like the other. If the lesion or mole is divided into half, and the halves are not equal or identical, then it is asymmetrical. 
    • Border Irregularity: Where the margins around the mole or lesion may be notched or irregular. 
    • Color: Melanomas are often a mixture of black, brown, blue, red, or white. 
    • Diameter: Cancerous lesions can be larger than 6mm across, typically the size of a pencil eraser. With early detection, they won't reach this size. 
    • Evolution: Has the mole or lesion changed in color, size, or shape over time?

    Many people, especially those who have fair coloring or have had extensive sun exposure, periodically should check their bodies for suspicious moles and lesions. Have your primary health care doctor, or a dermatologist check any moles or spots that concern you. See your doctor if you notice any changes in the size, shape, color, or texture of pigmented areas.

    Skin Cancer Detection

    Other guidelines

    Not all skin cancers match these descriptions perfectly. Speak to your doctor if you notice any of the following:

    • Any new spot.
    • Any incongruous spot: if it looks different than others on your body, get it checked out.
    • Any sore that doesn't heal.
    • Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole.
    • Spreading color: color that grows beyond a spot into the surrounding skin.
    • Persistent irritation: itching, pain, or tenderness in an area that doesn't go away or returns.
    • Changes in the surface of a mole: oozing, scaling, bleeding, or the appearance of a lump or bump.

     Detecting Skin Cancer Exam

    Exams & Tests for Skin Cancer

    If you think that a mole or other skin lesion has turned into skin cancer, your primary care doctor will most likely refer you to a dermatologist. The dermatologist will examine any moles in question, as well as the entire skin surface. Any lesions that are difficult to identify, or are thought to be skin cancer may then be checked. Tests for skin cancer include:

    • The doctor may use a dermatoscope to scan the lesion. Another handheld device, MalaFind, scans the lesion, then a computer program evaluates images of the lesion to indicate if it's cancerous.  
    • A biopsy of the skin will be taken so that the suspicious area can be examined under a microscope.
    • If a biopsy shows that you have malignant melanoma, you may undergo further testing to determine the extent of the spread of the disease, if any. This may involve blood tests, a chest x-ray, and other tests as needed. This is only required if the melanoma is of a certain size. 

    Sunscreen on Sale at Mountainside Medical Equipment

    The Best Sun Safety Products are Available at Mountainside Medical Equipment

    There's still plenty of summer left, so it's the perfect time to stock up on what you need to stay safe outdoors. Click here to visit our Sunscreen product collection!

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