You probably know that skin cancer can show up in the form of a mole, but do you know the different types?
Melanoma is considered the most dangerous skin cancer and has the highest risk of death.
“Melanoma is the worst kind of skin cancer, it is a pigmented lesion, it is a black mole that usually has some asymmetry,” explains Dr. John Sowell, with the Dermatology Associates in Huntsville.
It doesn’t matter if the melanoma is small, it all depends on how deep it is.
“In general, if you catch a melanoma a millimeter deep or less, they are usually curable by cutting them out,” says Dr. Sowell. “If it is three or four millimeters deep, they are usually, more often than not, they are fatal.”
The American Cancer Society says only one percent of skin cancers are melanomas, but that does not mean it won’t happen to you.
“I just had a dear friend die of melanoma on Saturday,” shares Penny Morrison, who lives in Huntsville. “It is difficult because she has two sons, and one is a junior in high school, and he will graduate without his mom.”
Melanoma accounts for the most skin cancer deaths, but there are other skin cancers you are more likely to get.
“Basal cell carcinoma is the most common kind of skin cancer, it is more of a pearly dome-shaped, papular bump that is red and bleeds easily,” describes Dr. Sowell. “Squamous cell carcinoma is in-between basal cell cancer and melanoma when it comes to danger, and squamous cell carcinoma usually presents as a crusty or warty patch on the hands or the forearms.”
People who have had these cancers say young people need to know to use sunscreen and protect themselves, because it is just not worth it.
“I was a sun worshiper all of my life, and now I am paying the price,” says Carol Edwards, who lives in Huntsville. “I have had a lot of spots taken off my legs and arms from over-exposure to the sun. So now I am very, very fathful to using sunscreen.”
So what should you look out for in questionable moles?
“Border irregularity is a warning sign, any color change or color variability within a mole, a mole starts to itch,” lists Dr. Sowell. “Any change in a mole should prompt you to have it looked at.”
You also want to check of the mole is asymmetrical.
“I tell patients to practice drawing a line through their moles, bisecting your moles,” says Dr. Sowell. “If the two halves look similar, as a rule, they are okay.”
If you are ever questioning if a mole is cancerous, always go get it checked out by a dermatologist. They have devices that can look at the different layers of skin and can do a biopsy.