Expert Advice

More than skin deep

More than Skin Deep | Augusta Health Matters

More than Skin Deep | Expert Advice: Answers to Common Medical Questions

Whether you spend your time in the sun slathered with sunscreen or out at the pool getting a tan, it’s never a bad idea to examine yourself for potential signs of skin cancer. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends examining your skin once a month.

When doing a self-exam there are a few changes you should look out for. The main signs you should notice are new growths on the surface of your skin. Most skin cancers take the form of some type of nodule or growth on the skin, whether it’s a mole or a red sore spot.

When you’re looking at moles, it’s important to be able to recognize what is normal and what is potentially problematic. A healthy, benign mole generally looks like a small brown dot on your skin. Malignant moles generally have an abnormal appearance. Discolorations — multiple shades of brown or even red or white — can be a sign of a malignant mole, as can an asymmetrical appearance. Most healthy moles are circular in shape and have a clear boundary. If you see a mole that has an irregular shape or unclear borders, it could be an issue. In addition, size can be a factor. Larger moles and moles that grow or change over time are more likely to be malignant.

While malignant moles can point to one type of skin cancer, called melanoma, other types, such as basal or squamous cell carcinoma, are more likely to occur as lesions or tumors, respectively. Because of this, it’s important to check your skin for all new growths, rather than just focus on moles.

Basal cell carcinoma lesions generally look like small, red sore spots on your skin, but they can also be pink or shiny. While basal cell carcinoma is not as dangerous as melanoma, it can still cause problems such as disfigurement, and it is the most common form of skin cancer. The main sign of squamous cell carcinoma, which is actually the second most common form of skin cancer, is a small, wart-like tumor that can be scaly and red or brown. Squamous cell carcinoma is much more serious than basal cell and is fatal in about 1 percent of cases.