Is Everything On My Skin Cancerous?
Last updated: November 2022
For years, no decades now, I have been checking my moles like a momma bird checks her nest. I understand what to look for: asymmetry, irregular borders, growth, changes, etc. For a melanoma survivor this has become a part and parcel of life. I make sure to tell others what to look for with regard to their moles. In fact, many people have actually asked me to look at their moles for them. Some people are fact-checkers, I guess that I am an amateur mole-checker. I always advise anyone to see an actual medical professional, if they have questions.
But, to be honest, I needed to get up to speed on other types of suspicious skin conditions that could be cancerous. These other skin cancers are not necessarily found in moles and may not be as life-threatening, but they certainly can be life-altering. Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma must be treated medically at their earliest stages for the best outcomes. But, what should someone look for?
Dr. Sarah Brewer, a graduate of Cambridge University (and the Medical Director of a prominent British medical website) brings some clarity to the subject in a recent English article. According to Dr. Brewer, it is not always easy for even medical professionals to tell if a skin blemish is cancerous.1 She advises that any blemish changes, or sores that don't heal in three weeks should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist.1
Dr. Brewer goes on to explain that typical signs to look for are patches of skin that become scaly, crusty, darken, develop redness or bleed. These precautions are the same for areas of skin in and around moles. Any mole that bleeds, itches, or becomes raised should be checked. As I write this, I begin to think that the list of things to look out for seem endless. How in the world can I be responsible for finding everything?
You are not alone in skin check fatigue
Well, you don't need to be completely responsible for it all. Have friends and family help you. Educate them. The one default I have now is that I see a dermatologist every six months. If I miss something in all of this, I now trust that a medical professional will give me the best chances of catching something. Find a great dermatologist.
I need help
And that is my point. I sometimes get worried that I will miss something, some spot, itch, patch, dot, cell, atom. I worry that at the end of the winter, when I put on shorts, some ominous mole will shine its ugly head or a patch of carcinoma will somehow appear. I get tired of the vigilance, diligence, and want to simply leave it up to providence. Then, I come to my senses. I can do this and you can, too. melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, all these nomas" can be most effectively treated when caught early. Keep fighting!
Do you sunscreen in the fall?