Symptoms and Risks of Skin Cancer
Because the biggest risk for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet radiation, the best way to prevent skin cancer is by staying out of the sun when you can. When you can’t avoid the sun, make sure you practice smart sun safety, such as wearing a hat and applying a doctor-recommended SPF sunscreen.
It’s also important to see your doctor at the first sign of skin cancer, as early treatment for skin cancer improves cure rates. Regular skin cancer screening can ensure a prompt and accurate diagnosis.
Symptoms of skin cancer
Skin cancer usually appears as a growth that changes in color, shape or size. This growth can look like a mole or a sore that does not heal.
Melanoma is the least common skin cancer, but is the most deadly of the 3 main types of skin cancer. Melanoma can appear anywhere on your body. The main sign of melanoma is a change in the size, shape or color of a mole that is larger than the head of a pencil eraser. Cancerous moles are usually irregular in shape with uneven edges. They can be more than one color and may change color.
The other 2 most common types of skin cancer, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, usually appear on the parts of your body that get the most sun. They can vary widely in appearance. These skin cancers can be red, white or pink. They can feel rough and dry, or they can feel smooth and shiny. They also can appear as a sore that does not heal.
If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor or make an appointment with The University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Skin cancer risk factors
You are more likely to get skin cancer if you:
- Are male and over 40
- Have a family history of skin cancer
- Have a history of severe sunburns
- Have been exposed to certain chemicals, such as arsenic, coal tar or creosote
- Have been exposed to radioactive substances such as radium
- Have been exposed to strong X-rays
- Have fair skin and burn easily
- Have many moles and freckles
- Have used tanning beds or sun lamps
- Spend a lot of time working or playing in the sun without protection