Although skin cancer typically occurs later in life, it can happen at any age. It’s crucial to protect your and your children’s skin from the sun’s harmful rays starting at a young age. Even in cloudy weather, the sun can cause painful burns that can later turn into life-threatening cancers.

What Is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and affects over 3 million people annually. It’s marked by an abnormal growth of skin cells, usually caused by the sun’s damaging rays. When caught early, skin cancer is highly treatable.

Skin Cancer Types and Symptoms

You should consistently check your skin to note any new or unusual growths, and speak with your primary care physician or a dermatologist trained to recognize the signs of skin cancer. While skin cancer is most commonly caused by sun exposure, you can also observe visible signs of the different types of skin cancer. Below are the most common diagnoses:

  • Basal cell carcinoma (BCC): When the basal cells, which produce new skin cells as the older cells decay, undergo a mutation in their DNA, BCC develops. These cells live on the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis, and your DNA is what impacts new cell growth. DNA mutations erroneously instruct the basal cells to multiply rapidly and continuing growing past their normal lifecycles. Symptoms include black or blue lesions, white, pink, or flesh-colored translucent bumps that can rupture, bleed, and scab. These bumps tend to be darker on deeper skin tones; however, they will still be slightly translucent, and tiny blood vessels may be visible.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC): The second most common form of skin cancer, SCC is characterized by firm lumps on the epidermis and open sores, scaly red patches, rough or thickened skin, and/or raised growths with a sunken center. The lesions tend to look different on everyone, and though treatable, left unchecked squamous cell carcinoma can be disfiguring or deadly as it spreads to other areas of the body or deeper layers of the skin. The squamous cells are thin and flat, and can also become cancerous following abnormal changes in DNA.
  • Melanoma: The infamous and most serious type of skin cancer (because of its ability to rapidly spread to other organs if left untreated), melanoma begins in the melanocytes, the cells that produce the skin’s pigment, or melanin. Melanoma can also form in your eyes, and in more rare cases, inside of your body. Initial signs of melanoma include a change in an existing mole or the development of a new pigmented or unusual-looking skin growth. Watch out for moles or growths with an irregular border or asymmetry or are uneven in color.

Skin Cancer Prevention Tips

Skin cancer typically develops on the skin cells on the face, neck, arms, and legs, although you should also regularly look for signs in areas of skin that don’t receive direct sunlight. Just because you enjoy spending time in the sun doesn’t mean that skin cancer is just around the corner, but you should regularly practice sun safety to protect your skin from UV rays. Stay in the shade or wear long sleeves during especially sunny days or when you plan to be outdoors for extended periods of time. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and most importantly, daily application of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher are effective methods for shielding your skin and helping to reduce your personal risk of skin cancer.

Indoor tanning involving a sun lamp, tanning bed, or booth also increases exposure to harmful and high levels of UV rays. Extended use can increase the risk of both skin and eye cancer, and any change of skin color (including a natural tan) is a sign of sun damage.

Treatment Options

The good news is that if you follow the above preventative measures, developing skin cancer is less likely. If you do end up needing a mole or mark removed, surgery is quick and simple. Several different surgical and non-surgical options exist depending on the location and type of mole.

Chemotherapy, radiotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and immunotherapy are usually only used in very serious instances, occurring typically with advanced melanomas. Even if the news isn’t good, there are definitely options you can explore with our team of board-certified dermatologists.

How The Dermatology Clinic Can Help

If you’re suspicious of any questionable moles or skin concerns due to sun damage, contact The Dermatology Clinic today to schedule a consultation with a trusted dermatologist at either of our locations in Baton Rouge and Walker. Our dermatologists can set you up on a screening schedule and a skin care routine to help battle any sun damage you’ve encountered and to prevent any from occurring in the future. We’re happy to address your concerns and get you set up on a regime to help eliminate your skin anxieties!