Time to Do a Skin Check

The end of summer is a great time to do a self-exam for signs of skin cancer.

Author: Jasmine Brown

Skin Self Exam

“Right now is a good time to take inventory of your skin.”

There was plenty of sun in Michigan this summer. Spending more time outdoors and enjoying the great weather means your skin was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, a larger amount than what your skin would be exposed to in the fall and winter seasons. Even though you may have protected your skin and lathered on the sunscreen, there is still a risk of skin damage.

“Right now is a good time to take inventory of your skin,” said Tolutope Oyasiji, MD, MRCSI, MHSA, FACS, surgical oncologist at Karmanos Cancer Institute at McLaren Flint. “If you’re seeing something on your skin that was not there before, if an area of your skin seems to look a little different or it feels a little different, if your mole or freckles seem to have changed shape or have multiplied, it’s time to see your primary care doctor.”

Knowing the signs and symptoms of skin cancer is important to catch the disease early and receive treatment at an earlier stage. Here is what you should look for when doing a self-examination of your skin:

  • Unusual moles, sores, lumps, blemishes, markings, or changes in the way an area of the skin looks or feels
  • Rough or scaly red patches, which might crust or bleed
  • Raised growths or lumps, sometimes with a lower area in the center
  • Open sores (which may have oozing or crusted areas) that do not heal, or that heal and then come back
  • Wart-like growths
  • Dark or pigmented skin lesions with irregular edges or color change

The Skin Cancer Foundation gives some additional signs to look out for that may indicate melanoma. Melanoma is a less common type of skin cancer that is more likely to spread to lymph nodes and other organs of the body. These signs are called the ABCDEs of melanoma:

A – Asymmetry: One half of a mole or spot does not match the other half.

B - Border: The outside edge is irregular, ragged, or scalloped, and not smooth.

C - Color: The color of the mole is not the same all over. There can be shades of black, brown, white, blue or red.

D – Diameter or Dark: The area is larger than an eraser on the end of a pencil (6mm) or the area is getting larger. Also, if the lesion is darker than others, this may be a sign of skin damage or cancer.

E – Evolving: Any changes or any new symptoms can be a warning sign.

Photos of different types of skin cancers can be found in the American Cancer Society’s Skin Cancer Image Gallery.

Bringing a concerning area to your physician’s attention is important to skin cancer prevention. This allows your doctors to examine the area, run tests if needed, or refer you to a skin specialist for further examination.

If skin cancer is present, you may be referred to an oncologist who specializes in skin cancer treatment. Dr. Oyasiji specializes in basal cell cancers, squamous cell cancers (carcinomas), melanomas, Merkle cell carcinoma, skin adnexal tumors and sarcomas.

“I treat skin cancers with surgical techniques. Treatment options depend on the type of skin cancer, how large the cancer is, and where it is located on the body, among other factors. I, along with my medical and radiation oncology colleagues, and the patient determine the best course of action for the cancer. Other options of treatment may be radiation or drug therapy,” explained Dr. Oyasiji.

For more information on skin cancer treatment, or to schedule a second opinion, visit karmanos.org/flintcancersurgery.