The three skin cancer types and what to look for when doing self-exams

Though many people enjoy having sun-kissed skin, we should be careful. More Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer than any other cancer – in fact, millions are each year!

There are three main types of skin cancers: basal, squamous and melanoma.

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are the most common types diagnosed among Americans. Around 8 out of 10 skin cancer cases start in the basal cell, and 2 out of 10 are squamous cell carcinomas. Both cells are found in the top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis.

Melanoma is the least commonly diagnosed skin cancer, but is most likely to spread to other body parts. This cancer starts in the melanocytes, which are the cells that give your skin a tan or brown tone. Melanomas can develop on the skin of any area of the body. However, for men, melanomas usually start on their chest or back, and for women, on their legs. For African Americans, melanomas are also highly likely to start on the palms of hands, soles of feet or under nails.

Catch skin cancer early

Limiting exposure to the sun is the best way to prevent skin cancer. However, even if you are taking all the steps to avoid skin cancer, you should also check your skin at least once a month to note changes that may need attention as soon as possible. This is what you should pay attention to when doing a self-exam and understanding your risk for skin cancer:

  • Changes in the number, size, or color of a mole or darkly pigmented spot.
  • A new growth or a sore that does not heal.
  • The spread of pigmentation past the edge of a mole or mark.
  • Moles with a change of sensation – itchiness, tenderness or pain.

When doing self-skin checks, it can help to remember what ABCD stands for: Asymmetry, Border, Color and Diameter.

See your healthcare provider or dermatologist if you notice any of the above symptoms. If you need a dermatologist, view a list of Karmanos and McLaren specialists accepting new patients here.

When it comes to skin cancer prevention, there are some numbers you may want to keep in mind. Click here to learn why these numbers are significant.