It’s understandable that people want to spend time outdoors during sunny summer weather. And especially for those who live in the south, sun exposure is almost impossible to avoid. But getting an annual mole check or skin cancer screening is crucial. Here’s why.
When you think of skin cancer, you might think of the often fatal type known as melanoma. While melanoma is certainly one of the riskiest types of skin cancers out there, there are a few others to be aware of. Basal cell carcinoma (commonly referred to as BCC) is the most common type of skin cancer. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, BCC affects roughly 3.6 million Americans every year. This type of skin cancer typically appears in the topmost layer of the skin, known as the epidermis.
Squamous cell carcinoma (abbreviated as SCC) is less common than BCC but is still the second most common form of skin cancer. SCC affects around 1.8 million Americans every year. This type of skin cancer grows in different cells, but like BCC, it’s also usually found in the epidermal layer. Around 15,000 people die in the U.S. every year from SCC -- around twice the number of deaths from melanoma.
Melanoma affects skin cells known as melanocytes, which give skin its pigment. It can start in the top layers of the skin and remain contained there, or it can penetrate deeper into the skin, causing many problems. It can also spread by way of the lymph system to other systems and organs in the body. Roughly two Americans every hour die from melanoma, and melanoma diagnoses have increased by 44% in the last decade. Another type of skin cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma, is also on the rise. While it’s still rare, it’s extremely dangerous and aggressive, and cases have increased by 95% within three years.
So with all this knowledge about the different types of skin cancers, how do you know what to look for? Signs of skin cancer can include shiny, translucent growths, pink, elevated bumps, or scaly, crusted patches of skin. But one of the most common signs of skin cancer are new moles or changes to existing moles.
Moles, clinically known as nevi, are small growths that develop when melanocytes cluster together. While the majority of moles are harmless, they can be cancerous, so it’s vital to keep an eye on them. You should regularly perform self-checks of your existing moles and watch for changes in size, shape, color, or border. If you notice anything suspicious, make an appointment with your dermatologist right away.
Not only can an annual skin cancer screening help a doctor to determine whether a particular mole is cancerous, but it can also help the doctor map your moles over time. Often, miniscule changes are barely noticeable to the naked eye, but dermatology specialists can notice them with their medical equipment. This is especially important for those patients with personal or family histories of skin cancer and those at higher risk of developing it. Since early detection is vital to full and effective skin cancer treatments, it’s smart to get this screening regularly.
If you’re in Baton Rouge or the surrounding areas and need a mole check, contact Louisiana Dermatology Associates today for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.