According to the American Academy of Dermatology, 8,000 people a year die from skin cancer in the U.S. Fortunately, skin cancer is highly treatable if detected early. Most types of skin cancers show up on the skin as red, scaly patches or bumps. Knowing and recognizing these abnormalities is the first step in early detection, and may save your life.
Actinic Keratosis (AK)
Actinic keratosis skin cancers show up as small scaly spots on your skin. Often they have a red and scabby look. They occur mostly on the face, ears, neck, forearms, on the scalps of bald men, and on the backs of the hands of fair skinned people. This type of skin cancer is easily treatable.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC)
This is the most common type of skin cancer and is usually found on the head and neck, but it can also be found on the torso and lower limbs. Basal cell carcinoma typically looks like a red, fleshy bump or patch and is most often found on fair skinned people. This is very treatable if spotted early.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC)
This is the second most common type of skin cancer and occurs mostly among fair skinned people. Squamous cell carcinomas can be found most frequently on the ear and on the face near the mouth. Look for a firm red bump or red scaly patch. Squamous cell carcinomas can become invasive if left untreated.
These are the most dangerous skin cancers as they metastasize readily. Early detection is critical. Melanoma is caused by the pigment producing cells called melanocysts so most often these cancers will be tan, brown, black, or some combination of those colors. But they can also be red or white. It is important to know your ABCDE's of melanoma detection: A- Asymmetry: two halves can vary in shape or color B- Border: border is indistinct, blurry, or irregular C- Color: color will vary with-in the spot from tan to brown or black, even blue, red and, white. D- Diameter: most melanomas are bigger than 6mm, but early detection might mean they are smaller E- Evolution: is it growing or changing
Even more important than early detection, is protection. Protecting yourself from harmful ultraviolet rays can prevent skin cancer from even happening. Always wear waterproof sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and broad spectrum protection. Wear protective clothing such as big floppy hats, sunglasses, long sleeve shirts, pants or long skirts. Stay in the shade as much as possible while outdoors. And most importantly, don't use tanning beds.