(WFXR) — May is a month of physical and mental health awareness, including skin cancer awareness. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States every year.

Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation broke down facts about skin cancer into subcategories: nonmelanoma skin cancer, melanoma, indoor tanning, skin aging, ethnicity, and pediatrics.

Nonmelanoma Skin Cancer

Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation

The Skin Cancer Foundation stated five warning signs to spot Basal Cell Carcinoma (BBC). Health officials say BBC commonly occurs on the face, ears, neck, scalp, chest, shoulders, and back.

Below are some signs and symptoms to look for:

  • An open sore that doesn’t heal
    • May bleed, ooze, or crust
    • Lasts for weeks, or appears to heal but comes back
  • A reddish patch or irritated area
    • Located on the face, chest, shoulder, arm, or leg
    • Can crust, itch, hurt or cause no discomfort
  • A shiny bump or nodule
    • Pearly or clear, pink, red, or white
    • A bump can be tan, black, or brown and mistaken for a mole
  • A small pink growth
    • Can be slightly raised, have a rolled edge, and have a crusted indentation in the center
    • Can develop tiny surface blood vessels over time
  • A scar-like area
    • Characterized as flat white, yellow, or waxy in color
    • Skin can appear shiny and taut, often with poorly defined borders
    • May be considered an invasive BBC

There are steps you can take to prevent further skin damage:

Be on the lookout.Pay attention to previously treated sites, note changes, and talk with your dermatologist.
Check yourself head to toe.Look for any new or changing lesions that grow, bleed, or do not heal.
See your dermatologist annually.Make an appointment to have your skin professionally examined.
Follow up.See your doctor regularly if you had BCC, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), or precancer.
Be sun-safe every day of the year.Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, seek the shade, or wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
Information from Skin Cancer Foundation

Melanoma

It is a serious skin cancer that is considered more dangerous because it can spread to other organs quickly if not treated early on.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, there have been 197,700 cases diagnosed in the U.S. in 2022. There have been 99,780 invasive cases, which penetrate the skin’s second layer. Out of those cases, 57,180 are diagnosed among men and 42,600 are diagnosed among women.

Melanoma happens when DNA is damaged because of burning or tanning due to UV radiation that triggered changes or mutations in the cells found in the skin’s upper layer, or melanocytes. This can result in uncontrolled cellular growth.

There are four different types of melanoma that health professionals can diagnose.

The Skin Cancer Foundation put together a list of factors that can increase your melanoma risk:

Unprotected or excessive UV exposureSun or indoor tanning
Weakened immune systemMedical condition or medications
Many molesMore moles, large moles, or any atypical moles increase melanoma risk
Fair skinThe risk is higher in people with fair skin, light eyes, and light or red hair
Skin cancer historyHistory of melanoma or nonmelanoma skin cancers have great risk in the future
GeneticsOne in 10 patients has a family history of the disease
Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation

When in doubt health officials say follow the first five letters of the alphabet or look for an ugly duckling.

A: Asymmetry

Health officials say that melanomas are asymmetrical. When cut in half, the two halves don’t match up. It looks different from a common mole that is oval or symmetrical.

B: Border

The borders of melanomas are uneven — either scalloped or notched — whereas moles have smoother, more even borders.

C: Color

Benign moles are brown while melanoma has different shades of brown, tan, or black. These colors can change to white, red, or blue as it grows.

D: Diameter or Dark

Health officials say that a lesion the size of a pencil eraser or larger is a warning sign. It is also important to look for lesions that are darker than others. In addition, there is a rare colorless lesion known as amelanotic melanoma.

E: Evolving

Health experts say to look for any changes in the lesion’s size, shape, color, or elevation on your skin. If symptoms appear, such as itching, bleeding, or crusting, that is a warning sign to see a doctor.

Ugly Duckling

Health experts also use the ‘Ugly Duckling’ warning sign. It’s a concept where doctors look for moles that stand out in comparison to other moles.

“These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.”

Skin Cancer Foundation

Health officials provide several options for the treatment of melanoma:

You can read about each option by clicking on the links provided above. Be sure to consult with your doctor on the best treatment option that will work for you.

Indoor Tanning

Tanning can have dangerous consequences on your skin cells, whether indoors or outside. That’s because when you tan, your skin produces melanin as a way to prevent further injury. Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin color.

Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation

Indoor tanning can have an impact on your health and appearance.

Your HealthYour Appearance
Health officials report one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70Changes and ages your skin
There are more skin cancer cases from indoor tanning compared to lung cancer cases from smokingAccelerates wrinkles, dark spots, and weathered skin
Risk further, unsightly changes to your appearance
Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation

There are ways to protect yourself. Health experts encourage you to avoid tanning entirely, use sunless tanning products, tone your skin through aerobic or high-intensity exercises, and drink lots of water and whole unprocessed foods.

For more information about keeping yourself protected from the sun, click here.

Skin Aging

Health officials say that skin aging is caused by the sun, but people who wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily reduce skin aging.

AgesAverage Accumulated Sun Exposure
1-1823%
19-4047%
41-5974%
60-78100%
*Data based on a 78-year life span (Data from the Skin Cancer Foundation)

Ethnicity

Skin cancer affects everyone, no matter if you have a darker skin tone, always tan, or rarely burn. However, health experts say that skin cancer is hard to detect if you are of African, Asian, Latino, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and/or Native American descent.

To keep yourself protected and healthy, it is important to know your skin type. Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick developed a system to classify skin types in 1975. The Fitzpatrick skin typing looks at the amount of skin pigment and the reaction to sun exposure. There are six types ranging from fair to very dark.

If you aren’t sure what kind of skin type you have, you can always take a quiz here.

Self-exam Steps

Health experts suggest people do a head-to-toe self-examination of their skin every month. According to the Big See, all you need is a bright light, a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, two chairs or stools, and a blow dryer.

When checking your skin, you should examine several areas of your body.

First, you want to check your face. Health experts suggest looking at your nose, lips, mouth, and ears. Using a mirror will help you get a clear view.

Experts say you should look through your scalp by using a blow-dryer and mirror to expose each section.

You should also check your palms, between your fingers, and under your fingernails, as well as your wrists and forearms.

According to experts, a full-length mirror can help you self-examine your upper arms, elbows, and underarms.

Make sure to look at your neck, chest, and torso. Health experts suggest women lift each breast to check underneath.

Experts encourage you to look at the back of your neck, shoulders, upper back, and the back of your upper arms. If you are having trouble, you can always ask a friend or family member to help.

Experts also say not to forget about your lower back, buttocks, and the back of both legs.

You also want to look at both legs, thigh to shin, ankles, tops of feet, between toes, and under toenails, as well as the soles of your feet and heels.

If you notice anything new, changing, or unusual, you are advised to contact a dermatologist.

There are many ways to consult a health professional. For example, the Skin Cancer Foundation website has a way for you to find a nearby dermatologist.

There is also a mobile skin cancer screening and education program that roams around the country. It is called Destination Healthy Skin, which has provided more than 25,000 free skin cancer screenings and helped educate tens of thousands of people on sun protection products and skin cancer.

The RV has two private exam rooms and a waiting area where people can get answers to their questions about skin cancer and prevention. The RV is already on the road and will be in 23 cities around the country this spring and summer. To see if the RV will be in your city, check out its schedule by following this link.

Before your exam, you should follow these five simple steps:

  • Perform a self-exam
  • Remove nail polish
  • Wear your hair loose
  • Pack makeup remover
  • Ask questions

If your doctor finds anything that looks suspicious, they may biopsy those spots by removing part of the lesion and sending it to a lab for analysis.