Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer affecting men, women, and children in the United States? You may have heard about the importance of protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays using sunscreen. It’s equally imperative to know that before cells develop into cancer, abnormal changes occur. Spotting suspicious changes to the skin early is key to treatment success. In fact, when caught at its earliest stages, the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99%.
Board-certified internist, aesthetic, and corrective skin specialist Dr. Mark Nowacki leads our professional medical team here at Skin and Body Curvatures in St. Petersburg, Florida. We want you to know the warning signs of skin cancer so you know when to seek professional advice and evaluation. Symptoms of skin cancer usually begin with abnormal changes, called skin lesions. If you notice new or changing skin lesions or have a skin lesion that you haven’t had checked out, it’s time to visit a specialist.
What are skin lesions?
The term “skin lesion” refers to an abnormal growth or appearance of the skin that looks different from the surrounding skin. You know what’s normal for your skin. That’s why keeping an eye out for changes that don’t look the way your skin usually appears is a big part of catching problems early.
Types of lesions
There are different types of skin lesions. Some lesions raise suspicion, while others are considered low risk. If you’ve gone through puberty, you’re likely familiar with acne. This type of skin lesion is commonly located on the face, shoulders, or neck, and isn’t usually a cause for concern.
Cold sores are another type of lesion. Herpes simplex viruses are responsible for these often painful blisters that appear on the lips and genitals. These lesions heal over on their own and aren’t a cause for concern.
What type of lesions need medical evaluation?
Symptoms of skin cancer often start as a type of lesion known as actinic keratosis. These types of lesions require immediate medical evaluation because they can develop into cancer. In fact, up to 60% of all skin cancers begin as actinic keratosis. Warning signs to look out for are:
- Dry, scaly areas of skin
- Slightly raised patches
- Wart-like surface
- Color changes (brown, pink, or red)
- Sensation change in the affected area (burning, itching)
What puts you at risk?
Actinic keratosis affects people of all backgrounds. However, some factors put you at a higher risk. You’re more likely to develop actinic keratosis if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Over the age of 40
- Blonde hair
- Light-colored eyes
- Increased sun exposure
- Family history of actinic keratosis
- Personal history of actinic keratosis
- Have a condition that affects immune function
If treated early, Dr. Nowaki can clear up or remove actinic keratosis before it develops into cancer.
When to see a doctor
It’s difficult to distinguish normal skin changes from abnormal changes that may spell trouble. For that reason, it’s best to leave it to a specialist. Scheduling an appointment with a specialist is wise whenever you notice changes to your skin that aren’t normal for you.
For more information and to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nowacki, call our St. Petersburg, FL office at 727-268-0646 and speak to a member of our team or request an appointment on our website.