Did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? According to current estimates by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), one out of every five Americans will develop skin cancer throughout their lifetime. Here’s another eye-opening way to look at it: Approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with this disease every day.
When it comes to preventing skin cancer, education is everything. That’s why we’re breaking down the three most common types of skin cancer, along with key things to know about each.
The most common type of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC), looks like a flesh-colored or pink bump or patch of skin. It may have a pearl-like hue to it, and might also ooze, crust, itch, or bleed.
BCCs develop after years of exposure to the sun’s dangerous rays (or indoor tanning). While they’re most often found on the head, neck, and arms, they can form anywhere on the body. Out of the three main types of skin cancer, BCCs are the most curable, as they grow quite slowly. However, early diagnosis is critical – without treatment, these abnormal cells can invade surrounding tissues, nerves, and bones.
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common type of skin cancer. It looks like a firm red bump, sore, or scaly patch that may heal and then reopen. As with BCCs, SCCs are most likely to form on the face, ears, neck, arms, chest, back, and other areas that are subject to frequent sun exposure. Because this form of skin cancer often grows rapidly, early diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent it from metastasizing to other parts of the body.
Melanoma is the third most common type of skin cancer, as well as the deadliest. It usually develops in a mole, although it may also appear as a new dark spot on the skin. This type of cancer can occur on any area of the body, including those that aren't typically exposed to the sun.
The acronym “ABCD,” which stands for “Asymmetry, Border, Color, Diameter,” comprises the signs of skin cancer and can be used during self-examinations to identify potential melanomas. So, if you notice a mole with an asymmetric shape, uneven border, color variations, or a diameter greater than 6mm (about pencil eraser-sized), you should consult with your dermatologist as soon as possible.
While melanoma is the most dangerous of these three common types of skin cancer, it can be curable. The earlier you find a melanoma, the better your prognosis.
While early diagnosis and treatment go a long way, prevention is paramount. Practicing basic sun safety, such as wearing sunscreen, staying indoors or in the shade during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., wearing sun-protective clothing, and conducting monthly self-examinations can help you protect yourself from skin cancer.
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