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Would You Know Skin Cancer If You Saw It

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Skin cancer is sneaky, and not because it doesn't give fair warning. An early -- and curable -- cancer can usually be spotted, but often you never see it (it's hiding on the back of your upper thigh), or you dismiss it as just another freckle. Sure, you've heard the "changing color, ragged edges" litany many times, but do you know exactly what that looks like on your own skin?

Would You Know Skin Cancer If You Saw It

  1. 1. Would You Know Skin <br />Cancer If You <br />Saw It?<br />Skin cancer is sneaky, and not because it doesn't give fair warning. An early -- and curable -- cancer can usually be spotted, but often you never see it (it's hiding on the back of your upper thigh), or you dismiss it as just another freckle. Sure, you've heard the "changing color, ragged edges" litany many times, but do you know exactly what that looks like on your own skin?Time for some show-and-tell. Now -- when you're still wearing your shorts and flip-flops and showing more skin than usual -- is the perfect time to see whether you can spot Skin Cancer.<br />
  2. 2. Where Skin Cancer Starts<br />People who regularly check themselves all over for suspicious skin changes are 44% less likely to die from melanoma -- the deadliest form -- than people who don't do self-exams. <br />Here's where skin cancer starts: The two most common but also most treatable kinds of skin cancer originate either in the bottom (basal) layer of your skin or the upper (squamous) layer. Melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer, affects the pigment-producing skin cells.<br />
  3. 3. Which One Is the Skin Cancer?<br />Spoiler alert! Read no further until you look at the spots and try to decide which is cancerous. To keep testing your skin cancer savvy on the next several slides, check the image first, make your best guess, then read. Neither spot is a skin cancer . . . yet. The left one is a normal mole. It's evenly colored, smaller than a pencil eraser, and symmetrical. The right one is an actinic keratosis (AK), the most common precancer. It's especially common in blonds and redheads who get a lot of sun. About 10% of AKs become a squamous cell carcinoma. The more AKs you have, the more likely one will become malignant.<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  4. 4. What Is This Pink Patch?<br />This pink patch could be anything, right? An infected mosquito bite, a pimple you tried to obliterate, or a skin cancer. In fact, it's a basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common skin cancer. BCCs are really sneaky because they have many disguises. They can be a pink growth like this; a flat, white, scarlike spot; or a reddish patch you'd swear was eczema. That's why if you notice a suspicious spot, you have to see a dermatologist, an MD who specializes in skin diseases.<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  5. 5. What Tanning Does<br />Got a scaly spot that won't go away? A red patch that bleeds if you bump it?Is it psoriasis, an actinic keratosis (AK), or a squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)? This spot may have been an AK once, but now it's a full-blown squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common type of skin cancer. SCCs can look like this scaly spot or resemble a crusty wart or an open sore. Tanning bed enthusiasts are natural targets.<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  6. 6. A Freckle? A Mole? A Melanoma?<br />If you're one of those people with dozens of moles or freckles all over you, it's easy to shrug them off. Don't. You're more at risk for melanoma than most people. Whether you've got one spot or 100, check each and every one for: A: asymmetry, meaning it's oddly shapedB: borders that are unevenC: colors that varyD: diameters bigger than a pencil eraserE: evolving (changing in any way)Repeat until you've memorized your ABCDEs.<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  7. 7. Can You Spot the Melanoma?<br />If you know lack of symmetry is a giveaway, you guessed correctly. The lesion on the right is a melanoma.<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  8. 8. Check Those Borders<br />The spot on the right has borders as irregular as the coastline of Maine. That's a bad thing. So is this spot; it's a melanoma. Learn whether you're at high risk for melanoma.<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  9. 9. How Many Colors Do You See?<br />More than one is a sign of melanoma. Did you instantly notice the two colors on the skin cancer on the right? Good for you!<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  10. 10. Get Out Your Pencil<br />If a mole or freckle is larger than a pencil eraser -- that is, more than about ¼-inch across -- it could be a melanoma, like the one on the right.<br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  11. 11. Keep Tabs On Your Moles<br />Changes of any kind in the ABCDEs are a signal to have a dermatologist check your spot. Compared with the ordinary moles on the left, the one on the right -- yep, that's a melanoma -- is different in size, shape, and color. <br />Photo by: Skin Cancer Foundation<br />
  12. 12. Get to Know Your Skin<br />Now that you have a much better idea of what to look for, patrol your skin for trouble spots while it's still fresh in your mind. Knowing what's normal for you makes it easier to notice any changes. Learn where your birthmarks, freckles, moles, and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like. Better yet, print this skin map from the Skin Cancer Foundation, and start tracking your spots.<br />
  13. 13. 6 Steps to Patrol Your Skin<br />Now that you know what to look for, here's how to look for it. Do these six steps monthly: 1. Use a mirror to look at the front and back of your body.2. Look at each side. Raise your arms and bend your elbows.3. Check your underarms, your forearms, your hands, and the backs of your upper arms.4. Look at your feet (soles, too), between your toes, and at the backs of your legs.5. Use a mirror to examine the back of your neck and scalp. Use a blow dryer on low to examine your entire scalp.6. Use a mirror to check your back and buttocks.<br />
  14. 14. Look High and Low<br />Skin cancer can occur anywhere, from the spot almost everyone gets sunburned (the tip of your nose) to the most out-of-the-way places (the spaces between your toes and, yes, your eyelids). Surprisingly, 5% to 10% of all skin cancers (mostly nonmelanomas) occur in the eyelid region. <br />
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