Ahhh, the warmth of the sun. As kids we longed for those endless summer days, and as adults we often feel shortchanged when it comes to the time we get to spend outdoors taking in the delights of a sunny day.
There’s a dark side to sun exposure, of course, due mainly to its ultraviolet rays. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types, affecting 1 in 5 Americans at some point in their lifetime.
Know your ABCDs
Let’s say you notice a spot or mole on your skin that looks suspicious — a spot whose asymmetry, border, color or dimension doesn’t look like it did the last time you checked. You don’t need an X-ray or blood test to find skin cancer; just show your primary care physician any area that concerns you. In such cases, your physician may:
- Compile a medical history to uncover when the mark first appeared, how it has changed in size or appearance, past exposures to known skin cancer causes (including sunburns) and whether you have a family history of skin cancer.
- Note the size, shape, color and texture of the area in question, and whether there is bleeding or scaling. Your physician will likely check the rest of your body for spots and moles that may be related to skin cancer.
Seeing a specialist
You may eventually see a dermatologist, a skin specialist who may examine the area more closely using a dermatoscope (a special magnifying lens and light source) to determine if a spot might be a melanoma or other type of skin cancer. Your dermatologist may also take a digital or photographic image of the spot to improve accuracy in finding skin cancers.
What if it looks like cancer?
Should your dermatologist have suspicions about an area, he/she will probably order a biopsy. The biopsy method used to collect the sample depends on the possible type of skin cancer, where it is located and the size of the affected area.
There is much you can do to catch skin cancer early enough so that it can be treated effectively. To learn more about or to make an appointment with Little Company of Mary’s board-certified dermatologist, click here.