13 Oct Not all Skin Cancers Look Like Suspicious Moles
You have probably been told that checking for the ABCDEs of moles is the right approach for gauging if a mole could be cancerous or pre-cancerous. That should certainly be practiced with monthly skin checks at home coupled with an annual mole check from the experts at Spectrum Dermatology. However, there are many instances where skin cancer is present without any strange-looking moles. This is why it is so important to regularly see your dermatologist just like you routinely visit your general physician and dentist.
It is estimated that only about 25 percent of melanomas are coupled with a mole, whether it is a suspicious-looking mole or not. One study found that many melanomas occur in skin that looks perfectly healthy to anyone except an expert. In fact, one type of melanoma known as de novo melanomas usually presents as a thick tumor rather than as a mole that changes size, shape, or color. There are some skin cancers that can grow very fast, advancing stages at an incredible rate, and if you don’t have a mole to gauge changes this makes it even more critical to trust your skin to routine dermatological care.
The Reality of Skin Cancer
Knowing that not all skin cancers present as moles doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do at home to keep an eye out for red flags. In most cases, skin cancer will still show some signs. For example, if you notice a bump or wart on the skin that tends to bleed easily or an ulcer that just never seems to heal, that is a possible sign of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). The key word here is possible. There are over 3,000 types of skin conditions and they can all appear a little differently on different people.
Does this mean you have to see your dermatologist every time you have a nick or cut? Not necessarily. A good rule of thumb is that if you have an abrasion that doesn’t heal in a month, that’s reason to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. Another possible sign of skin cancer is changes to your fingernails. If a nail has different textures or colors, or if it’s sensitive and didn’t used to be, this might also be a sign of SCC. It is certainly possible to develop skin cancer below the nails, and that thick keratin sheet can distort what typical signs of skin cancer look like.
Skin Cancer: What to Watch For
The eyelids are not immune to skin cancer and in fact can be particularly prone to it. Many people aren’t as liberal with sunscreen on their eyelids, but this thin and sensitive skin is routinely exposed to UV rays. This is especially true for those who don’t seek out quality sunglasses that are specifically made for UV blockage. The inside of your eyelids can develop moles, too, but we usually don’t this area during at-home skin checks. An optometrist can help spot signs of skin cancer around the eyes and seeing this specialist is an excellent complement to your yearly skin check. Sometimes these moles inside and around the eyelids are so tiny that they are tough for non-professionals to notice.
The Mole Rules
Skin cancer presents in many ways, and this includes within moles but without following the typical rules. Nodular melanoma tends to grow in a vertical fashion. It usually looks like a little bump that “spreads” down inside the skin. These cancers grow fast and it can be impossible to see that growth since it is in a downward motion. How can you help catch skin cancer early when this is the case?
Add two new letters to your alphabet of mole checks. We already have the ABCDEs: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution. Add “F” for firmness and “G” for growth. Firmness means that any mole that is unusually firm or tender needs to be checked by a dermatologist. Growth is similar to evolution, but is exclusively for size growth rather than evolving in color or shape.
Remember that seeing your dermatologist regularly will always be the best way to catch skin cancer early, even cancers that don’t fit the typical mold. Schedule your skin check today at Spectrum Dermatology by calling (480) 948-8400.