Skin cancer can develop primarily in an area which is exposed to the sun. But it is possible that it can also develop in an area which is not exposed to the sun. It can affect people of all skin tones.
Most of us have at least a few moles or skin discolorations on our bodies (many of us have more than a few), and it is sensible to keep an eye on them. But if you don’t know the original skin cancer signs and symptoms you may miss something important, or equally, you may worry about something that is entirely harmless.
Number of Moles
Doctors use some methods when they check your moles and before they advise referral to a cancer specialist. The first will be to check and see how many moles you have as this is indicative of the amount of time you have spent in the sun across your lifetime and the heredity impact that your skin color has had on your mole count. If you are pale, you will have more moles and therefore a higher skin cancer risk. More than 10 moles on one arm indicates a greater than average risk.
Doctors also use the primary ABCDE method and it is easy for us to do this at home too.
- Asymmetrical – If you folded your mole in half would the sides match? If not it may require further investigation.
- Borders – Is the border irregular or ragged? It indicates that the mole is bleeding into the surrounding tissue and it should be checked.
- Colour – Is your mole more than one color? Most moles are one shade, if yours has more than two, get it checked.
- Diameter – Healthy moles tend to be small. If yours is larger than 2mm or it has grown very quickly, have your doctor take a look.
- Evolution – Has your mole changed at all? Has it started to bleed, crust over, get itchy or change in any way? If so, have it looked at.
Your doctor may also examine your mole with pictures they have on file or with their experience. You can easily do this at home too. There are many sources of skin cancer pictures online that you can compare with your mole. A typical mole will normally be flat and round and a medium brown to black color.
But you shouldn’t stop there. You should also keep a close watch on your mole and take photos of it to compare at a later date to identify changes. It will also greatly help your doctor if you have these pictures to show. Changes in moles may take many months to show and can be tricky to spot.
Avoidance is the Best Cure
Of course, keeping your skin healthy is the best start when it comes to skin cancer. We recommend staying out of the sun unless you are wearing a sunscreen, clothing and a hat. Avoid the hottest part of the day and remember that if you are pale, you will burn more quickly. You can, however, get around 10-15 minutes in the sun per day to build up your vitamin D levels.
Checking for skin cancer signs and symptoms may be relatively easy to do at home, but you should still see your doctor if you have any concerns. Some skin cancers grow under the skin where they cannot be seen and therefore may be harder to spot. So regular check-ups are a great idea if you are at risk.
If there is any change in the skin that you are unable to explain then, you should be worried. You should make an appointment with the doctor without any delay. It is possible that skin cancer does not cause the change so seeing a doctor will help in determining the cause of the change and treat it accordingly.
Featured photo credit: Adam Gray via dailymail.co.uk