Subtle signs of skin cancer you shouldn’t ignore
When the weather gets warmer and daylight hours longer, people are more likely to spend time outdoors in the sun. This also means there’s an increased risk for skin cancer. Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, according to cancer.org.au, which account for around 80% of all newly diagnosed cancers. Although common, it’s also the most preventable and curable cancer if caught early. It’s recommended that you do monthly self-check exams from head to toe to look at moles and any other abnormalities on the skin. But aside from monitoring spots throughout your body, there are other subtle signs of skin cancer you may be ignoring.
We asked dermatologists to tell us what skin cancer symptoms people might miss.
Skin growths or moles that aren’t brown or black
While you might focus on brown or dark moles when you think of skin cancer, there are actually several types of skin growths to keep an eye on. The major types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and melanoma. Both BCC and SCC are known as non-melanoma skin cancer or keratinocyte cancers, says Cancer Council Australia.
- BCC is the most common type of skin cancer. It often has no symptoms and tends to grow slowly without spreading to other parts of the body. Symptoms include a pearly lump or a scaly dry area.
- SCC is the second most common form of skin cancer. Symptoms may include thickened red, scaly spots; rapidly growing lump; looks like a sore that has not healed; and may be tender to touch.
- Melanoma is the rarest but the deadliest form of skin cancer. Often melanoma has no symptoms, however, the first sign is generally a change in an existing mole or the appearance of a new spot. Melanoma is projected to be the third most common cancer diagnosed in Australia, which along with New Zealand has the world’s highest incidence rate for melanoma.
The tricky part is recognising trouble, says surgical and cosmetic dermatologist Dr Adele Haimovic. Some melanoma moles can actually be skin-coloured or pink – they’re known as amelanotic melanomas. This kind of melanoma is a challenge to recognise because we’re inclined to think it’s just a harmless bump. That’s why it’s important to have regular skin checks by a dermatologist to look at any skin growths or abnormalities.
Now check out the 10 sneaky places you can get skin cancer (that aren’t on your skin).
If you find yourself bleeding after shaving, it may not be due to clumsiness: “Basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma can bleed after shaving or other minor trauma, and sometimes spontaneously bleed with no known inciting event,” says Dr Haimovic. “This is because skin cancer leaves the skin more fragile than healthy skin.” If you find yourself bleeding in the same spot, get it checked out.