When many people think of a skin care regimen their minds immediately jump to things like cleansing, moisturizing, and using sunscreen. While these are all critical components to healthy vibrant skin, it’s important not to forget one additional step — checking your skin for possible skin cancer.
At the Ventura Institute for Dermatologic Arts in Ventura and Camarillo, California, Dr. Peter Karlsberg and his physician’s assistant Michele Ayans provide state-of-the-art cosmetic dermatological services along with care critical to good health, including the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States with more than 9,500 individuals getting diagnosed each day. While often found on areas that are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays, it can also occur on other places of the body that are infrequently exposed to the sun or tanning beds.
Types of skin cancer
There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma
The most frequent kind of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma strikes cells in the top layer of the skin. Its appearance can vary depending on the individual, but can look like red patches, pink and/or shiny growths or bumps, open sores, or scars.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type and is found in the flat squamous cells near the surface of the skin. While it can look different on different people, it often presents as open sores, red scaly patches, thick skin, or growths that are raised but have a depression in the middle.
Melanoma occurs in the body’s melanocytes, which usually make melanin, the brown pigment that gives skin its color. It is less common than the other two main types of skin cancer but it can grow and spread quickly, so it is more dangerous.
Catching melanoma early is critical to the best possible outcome. The five-year survival rate is 99% when it is detected before it has spread. That number decreases to 66% if it has reached the lymph nodes and 27% if it has invaded other organs.
One good way to spot this potentially deadly cancer is to do skin checks using the ABCDE method:
- A = Asymmetrical. Watch out for any spots or moles that look different on one side than the other.
- B = Border. Anything with edges that are irregular, jagged, or otherwise unusual should be examined by a medical expert.
- C = Color. Typically moles are one color. Beware of anything that has different shades of brown or black or even other colors like pink, red, white, or blue.
- D = Diameter. Moles are usually pea-sized or smaller. If one is larger, it could signal a problem.
- E = Evolving. If a spot or mole has changed in appearance over the last weeks or months, that could be a red flag.