Skin cancer happens when normal cells in the skin change into abnormal cells. The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.  The first two are slow growing and can usually be easily treated.  But if not treated, they can become large and cause problems with the surrounding tissue.  These are most often on the sun-exposed surfaces such as the head, face, neck, back of the hands, arms, and legs.  These types of skin cancers are usually treated in the clinic by removing the lesion.

Melanoma is a serious form of skin cancer. It happens when normal cells in the skin change into abnormal cells and grow out of control. Melanoma can occur anywhere on the skin, including the back and other hard-to-see areas.  When it is not treated, melanoma can spread to organs inside the body or metastasize.

It is important to look for abnormal features of moles which may indicate that melanoma or other skin cancer has developed. 

  • Asymmetry – One half can look different than the other half.
  • Border – It can have a jagged or uneven edge.
  • Color – It can have different colors.
  • Diameter – It is larger than the eraser on the end of a pencil.
  • Evolution – Its color or shape can change over time.

Skin affected by melanoma can also bleed or become swollen, red, or crusty.

You should see your doctor as soon as you notice any mole that has any of these worrisome features.  It is also important for you to check your skin monthly so that any sign of a changing mole can be detected.  I recommend applying sunscreen to your face, ears, and neck every day and to any other areas that will receive sun exposure throughout the day.

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