What You Need to Know for National Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Don't Let Skin Cancer Sneak Up on You

dermatologist performing skin cancer exam
Susan Chiang/E+/Getty Images

Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, with over one million people diagnosed each year. Even though it is so common, you may not know how it can affect your life and what you can do to reduce your risks. May is National Skin Cancer/Melanoma Awareness Month, with campaigns to inform you about the causes, risks and treatment of skin cancer in its various forms.

Fast Facts About Skin Cancer

  • Skin cancer and melanoma account for about 50% of all types of cancers diagnosed combined.
  • Skin cancer is one of the more preventable types of cancer.
  • More than 90% of skin cancer is caused by excessive exposure to the sun.
  • Each hour, 1 person dies from skin cancer. It is not something to be dismissed as a health risk.

See 8 Shocking Facts About Skin Cancer for more statistics and facts about melanoma and skin cancer.

Skin Cancer and Melanoma Basics

Skin cancer is divided into two categories: melanoma and non-melanoma.

  • Melanoma is a dangerous form of skin cancer.  Melanoma accounts for 4% of skin cancer cases diagnosed. It is estimated that 62,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma in a year. Almost 8,000 are expected to die of melanoma in a year.
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer are serious but are much less life-threatening and easier to treat. There are two common types of non-melanoma skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

The Causes of Skin Cancer

Unprotected exposure to the sun's UV rays is the culprit of most cases of skin cancer.

Genetics also can play a role in skin cancer development.

How to Find Out if You Have Skin Cancer

Skin cancer can sneak up on you if you aren't looking out for it, and it may not be something you think about for regular checkups. It pays to pay attention to your skin.

  • Monthly Self Exam: It is recommended that each person examine their skin monthly for skin abnormalities. Learning the ABC's of skin cancer can help you to identify areas of the skin that may be cancerous.
  • Yearly Clinical Skin Exam: It is also recommended that people have a clinical skin exam every year by a health care professional.

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

  • A small lump (spot or mole) that is shiny, waxy, pale in color, and smooth in texture.
  • A red lump (spot or mole) that is firm
  • A sore or spot that bleeds or become crusty. Also look for sores that don't heal.
  • Rough and scaly patches on the skin.
  • Flat scaly areas of the skin that are red or brown.
  • Any new growth that is suspicious

If you suspect that a lump, spot, or mole may be suspicious of skin cancer, see your doctor. When detected early, it is highly treatable.

What Does Skin Cancer Look Like?

Continue Reading