Skin Cancer

15 May 2017

Skin cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells.

There are various types of skin cancers and pre-cancers including melanoma, actinic keratosis, atypical moles, basal cell carcinoma, merkel cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, each one having a different prognosis. 

  • The most common risk factors for skin cancer are:
  • Ultraviolet light exposure, either from the sun or tanning beds. 
  • A chronically suppressed immune system.
  • Exposure to radiation (X-rays)
  • Certain types of sexually acquired wart virus infections.
  • A history of skin cancer
  • Advancing years
  • Skin cancers can show up in many shapes and sizes, if you see anything that concerns you, show the doctor.

Basal and squamous cell cancers:

Most often found in areas that are more exposed to the sun, but can develop anywhere. Keep an eye out for growths, spots, bumps, patches or sores that don't heal after a few weeks, these may be:

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Flat, firm, pale or yellow areas, similar to a scar.
  • Raised reddish patches that might be itchy
  • Small, pink, red or translucent shiny pearly bumps, that may have blue, brown or black areas.
  • Pink growths with raised edges and a lower area in the center, these may have abnormal blood vessels spreading out from them.
  • Open sores that don't heal, or come back after healing

Squamous cell carcinomas

  • Rough or scaly red patches
  • Raised growths or lumps, with maybe a lower area in the centre
  • Open sores that don't heal, or come back after healing
  • Wart like growths

Possible signs of melanoma: ABCDE

  • Asymmetry: one half of the mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • Border: edges are irregular, ragged or blurred.
  • Colour: not the same all over, showing different shades of brown or black, even with pink, red, white or blue.
  • Diameter: if larger that 6mm across (sometimes they can be smaller)
  • Evolving: it changes in size, shape or colour.

Not all melanomas follow this rule, so tell your doctor of any changes, new spots or growths that are different from the rest of your moles.

Other warning signs include:

  • Sores that do not heal
  • Spread of pigment from the border of a spot into surrounding skin
  • Redness or new swelling beyond the border of the mole
  • Itchiness, pain
  • Change in the surface of a mole

How to prevent skin cancers:

  • Seek the shade
  • Do not burn
  • Avoid tanning 
  • Cover up
  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen
  • Keep newborns out of the sun
  • Examine your skin, head to toe regularly
  • See your physician for a yearly skin exam

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Cancer Support Mallorca is a charity registered in Spain under number G57773749.