Could It Be Skin Cancer?

What to Look for When it Comes to Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, yet many people overlook its early signs. This can lead to delayed diagnoses and more complicated treatments. Understanding why people ignore these signs, knowing when to see a dermatologist, and recognizing which ages are most commonly affected can help us all take better care of our skin health.

Why People Ignore the Signs of Skin Cancer

Lack of Awareness. Many people are not aware of the early signs of skin cancer. They may not recognize that changes in their skin, such as new growths, changes in moles, or non-healing sores, can be indicative of skin cancer.

Misattributing Symptoms. Often, people might mistake symptoms of skin cancer for other less serious skin issues. For instance, they might think a persistent sore is just a stubborn pimple or that a new mole is just a benign age spot.

 Fear and Denial. The fear of a cancer diagnosis can lead to denial. Some people may avoid seeing a doctor because they are afraid of what they might find out, hoping that the issue will resolve itself.

Busy Lifestyles. With the hustle and bustle of daily life, health concerns can take a back seat. People might postpone seeing a doctor due to work, family responsibilities, or other commitments, not realizing the urgency of skin issues.

Cosmetic Concerns. Sometimes, the fear of scarring or the belief that a skin issue is purely cosmetic can lead individuals to avoid seeking medical advice. They may try to treat it with over-the-counter remedies, not realizing that medical intervention is necessary.

 When to See a Dermatologist

It’s important to see a dermatologist when you notice any of the following signs:

  • New Growths. Any new growths on the skin, especially those that look different from your other moles or spots, should be examined.
  • Changes in Existing Moles. If you notice changes in size, shape, color, or texture of a mole, it’s important to get it checked out. The ABCDE rule (Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter, Evolving) is a useful guideline for spotting potential melanoma.
  • Non-Healing Sores. Sores that do not heal within a few weeks, or those that heal and then reappear, can be a sign of skin cancer.
  • Itching, Tenderness, Pain, or Bleeding. Any spot on your skin that itches, hurts, or becomes tender should be looked at by a dermatologist.
  • Changes in Texture. Areas of the skin that become scaly, crusty, or begin to bleed without any apparent reason should raise concern.

 Ages Commonly Affected and Why

Young Adults (20s and 30s). Skin cancer, particularly melanoma, can affect younger adults. This age group often experiences high levels of sun exposure,  either from outdoor activities or tanning beds. Intermittent, intense sun exposure and sunburns during these years can significantly increase the risk.

Middle-Aged Adults (40s and 50s). Non-melanoma skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma become more common in this age group. Cumulative sun exposure over the years starts to show its effects.

Older Adults (Over 60). The risk of skin cancer increases with age due to the accumulated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation over a lifetime. Additionally, the skin’s natural defenses weaken with age, making older adults more susceptible.

What to Look For When it Comes to Skin Cancer.

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and part of Cosmetic Surgery & Dermatology’s mission is to help educate the public on prevention and awareness around skin cancer.

Ignoring the signs of skin cancer can have serious consequences. By staying informed about what to look for and understanding when to seek medical advice, we can catch skin cancer early and treat it effectively. Regular skin exams, both self-examinations and professional screenings, are essential. Remember, your skin is your body’s largest organ, and taking care of it is crucial at any age. If you notice any suspicious changes, don’t wait—see a dermatologist. Your health is worth it.

Dr. Michalak is a Board Certified Dermatologist, Dermatologic Surgeon, and MOHS surgeon. His expertise has helped 1,000’s of people over the span of his 30 plus year career spot, and treat skin cancer. He also provides as part of a patients treatment plan information on the treatment of post-surgical scars for those who are concerned, especially on visible areas like the face, chest, and arms.

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