Fitness Facts: Check your skin regularly

May 02, 2018 / by / 0 Comment

Connie Colbert

By Connie Colbert
Director, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

Regular skin checks are essential, especially in Arizona!

It is estimated by the American Cancer Society that Arizona will have more than 1,400 new cases of melanoma this year.

Skin cancer is the most common of cancer in the United States. It is estimated that more than 3.5 million new cases are diagnosed each year — more than all other cancers combined.

One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime. Skin cancers can affect your appearance as well as your health. The best way to find skin cancer before it becomes serious is by checking your skin regularly. Most of the brownish spots on your skin – freckles, moles and birthmarks – are normal, but some may be skin cancers. It is important to look for changes in these spots or the appearance of new spots when checking your skin.

Your health care provider can check your skin carefully during a routine cancer-related checkup. Many health care providers also recommend that you check your own skin about once a month. Look at your skin in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see.

Knowing the rules can help. The “ABCDE rule” is one that most health care providers use to assess the skin.

Use that rule to look for some of the common signs of melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry: One part of a mole or birthmark doesn’t match the other.
  • Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
  • Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than a quarter-inch across – about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape or color.

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are not as dangerous as melanoma, but they are much more common.

Basal cell carcinomas, or cancers, usually grow on areas that get the most sun, such as the face, head and neck. But they can show up anywhere. Look for:

  • Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar
  • Raised reddish patches that might be itchy
  • Small, pink or red, translucent, shiny, pearly bumps, which might have blue, brown or black areas
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in their center, which might contain abnormal blood vessels spreading out like the spokes of a tire
  • Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal or that heal and then come back

Squamous cell carcinomas, or cancers, tend to grow on areas that get sun, such as the face, ears, neck, lips and hands. But they can show up anywhere. Look for:

  • Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that don’t heal or that heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths

Not all skin cancers look like these descriptions, though, so point out anything you’re concerned about to your doctor. That would include:

  • Any new spots
  • Any spot that doesn’t look like others on your body
  • Any sore that doesn’t heal
  • Redness or new swelling beyond the border of a mole
  • Itching, pain or tenderness
  • Oozing, scaliness or bleeding

Prevention is always best! Recognize the warning signs and make an appointment to see a dermatologist if you see any changes.

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