Skin cancer is one of those diseases that may not always be on your mind, but because of this, it can easily go undetected. If you're not making regular appointments to see your dermatologist, you might want to keep your eye out for subtle signs of skin cancer you shouldn't ignore. Checking for abnormalities is important — it could save your life.
"If melanoma is diagnosed and treated in its early stages, it is almost always curable," says dermatologic surgeon and RealSelf Contributor Dr. Joel Schlessinger over email. "If it’s not caught early, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body, where it becomes hard to treat and can be fatal.
Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. "Everyone is at risk for melanoma, but increased risk depends on several factors including sun exposure, number of moles on the skin, skin type and family history," says Schlessinger.
But despite the prevalence of the disease, about 77 percent of people do not feel confident in their abilities to recognize melanomas of the skin, according to research from the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD).
Hopefully, with the help of some insight from a few dermatologists, we can make it easier to know what to look for. When looking at your skin, here are eight subtle signs of skin cancer you shouldn't ignore.
1. Pink Scaly Spots
"If you have pink, scaly spots that persist for months and do not improve with moisturizers, this can be a sign of UV-related skin damage," says dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse MD, FAAD over email. Up to 16 percent of these pre-cancer spots can develop into a non-melanoma skin cancer, but they can be treated with liquid nitrogen or chemical creams that destroy the damaged cells, says Shainhouse.
2. Pimples That Doesn't Heal
"A 'pimple' that just doesn't heal or resolve after one month could be a sign of a minor skin cancer," says dermatologist Dr. Soheil Simzar of Ava MD over email. These pimple-like bumps are often shiny and can bleed.
3. Changing Moles
"If you notice a new mole on your body, a change in shape, color, or size in a mole that has been there for years, then see your dermatologist — sooner, rather than later," says Shainhouse. "Changing moles may represent melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer that can spread in your body."
4. Spots On Nails
A bruise underneath a nail is totally normal after an injury, but random, new brown spots are something you need to pay attention to. "If you notice one after removing your nail polish one day, see your dermatologist for evaluation," says Shainhouse. "Melanomas can develop on the nail bed and in the nail matrix, the cells from which the nail develops."
5. A White Halo Around A Mole
"Although this can be normal in kids, when adults develop white rings around older moles, they should have all of their skin examined," says Shainhouse. "Most of the time, halo nevi are normal, but they can be a sign that melanoma is developing somewhere else on the skin."
6. A Mole That Sticks Out
If you have a lot of moles, Schlessinger recommends using the "Ugly Duckling Method." "This is based on the concept that melanoma often looks different than surrounding moles," he says. "Normal moles resemble each other while melanoma looks or feels different."
7. A Scar That You Don't Remember
A spot that looks like a scar, but you cannot remember why you would have a scar there, might be a sign of skin cancer. "A subtype of basal cell carcinoma called morpheaform can look like a scar and be very subtle," says dermatologist Heather D. Rogers, MD over email.
8. Anything That Bleeds Easily
Watch out for any spot that bleeds easily with minimal friction, such as when drying your face or rubbing it against your pillow, suggests Simzar. You should also look for any oozing or crusting.
If you have any of these issues, don't panic. See your doctor right away, and they can give you the correct diagnosis."Self-examination is useful, but any areas of concern should always be checked by a professional," says Schlessinger. "It’s also very important to see a dermatologist at least once a year for a full skin check, or more often if you have a history of skin cancer."
Images: Abigail Keenan/Unsplash; Pexels; Bustle