Sitting in the sun is a great way of getting enough vitamin D to keep us healthy. However, as we all know, for us humans, too much sun can cause skin cancer.
Should we be worried, how do we know what to look for?
At The Avenue Clinic, we care about your general health as well as your joints and muscles so we wanted to remind you what to look for on your skin. If we notice anything that looks a bit suspicious when we examine your back, we will of course advise you to visit your GP.
The symptoms of non melanoma skin cancer can usually be seen quite easily. They tend to occur most often on skin that is exposed to the sun. It will help you to spot skin cancers early if you are aware of how your skin normally looks. That way, you will recognise any changes more easily. Remember to get your partner or someone else you trust to check your back or other areas that you can’t easily see. This is very important if you sunbathe a lot or if you regularly work outside without a shirt on.
What is ‘normal’?
A normal mole is usually an evenly colored brown, tan, or black spot on the skin. It can be either flat or raised. It can be round or oval. Moles are generally less than 6 millimeters (about ¼ inch) across (about the width of a pencil eraser). A mole can be present at birth, or it can appear during childhood or young adulthood. New moles that appear later in life should be checked by a doctor.
Once a mole has developed, it will usually stay the same size, shape, and color for many years. Some moles may eventually fade away.
Most people have moles, and almost all moles are harmless. But it is important to recognize changes in a mole – such as in its size, shape, or color – that can suggest a melanoma may be developing.
Signs to be aware of are:
- Skin cancers can develop on or near other non cancerous (benign) skin growths. You should show your doctor any area of your skin that is damaged and does not heal up.
- A spot or sore that does not heal within 4 weeks
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, scab, crust or bleed for more than 4 weeks.
- Areas where the skin has broken down or become an ulcer, you can’t think of a reason for this change, and it does not heal within 4 weeks. An ulcer is an area that is breaking down and begins to get deeper. This can be called erosion.
- Basal cell skin cancer looks like a small, slow growing, shiny, pink or red lump. They can also look like red scaly patches. If left, basal cell skin cancers tend to become crusty, bleed, or develop into an ulcer. They are commonest on the face, scalp, ears, hands, shoulders and back
- Squamous cell skin cancer looks like pink lumps. They may have hard or scaly skin on the surface. They are often, but not always, tender. They can bleed easily and develop into an ulcer. They are most often found on the face, neck, lips, ears, hands, shoulders, arms and legs.
- A very early form of skin cancer can appear anywhere on the skin and is called Bowen’s disease.It usually looks like a red patch that may be itchy. It can appear anywhere on the skin. It is most commonly found on the lower leg, particularly in older women. But it can also develop on the moist membranes of the body. Moist membranes means soft wet skin similar to the skin on the inside of your mouth. Bowen’s disease may appear as a white patch in the mouth or a red patch in the genital area.
- The diagnosis of Malignant Melanoma is often based on the “ugly duckling” sign.
- In 1998, Grob, et al introduced the ugly duckling concept — the observation that moles in the same person tend to look like each other, and that malignant melanoma often deviates from this pattern. For example, the ‘odd’ lesion can be larger and darker than the surrounding moles (Figure 1A) below, or conversely, small and red in the background of multiple large dark moles (Figure 1B). Finally, if you have or no other moles then any changing mole should be considered suspicious (Figure 1C).
The bottom line is that if you notice a mole that looks ‘odd’ or changes at all over time – gets bigger, bleeds, starts to itch or just doesn’t ‘feel right’ then ask your GP about it . Don’t think you will be ‘wasting their time’ – it could save your life!
If you refer a friend or family to the clinic and they attend in June, we will give you £5 off your next treatment with us…. get them to call us now and tell us you recommended them!