Skin Cancer Warning Signs

What to Look For

A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored
A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed
An open sore that does not heal within three weeks
A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that: changes color; increases in size or thickness; changes in texture; is irregular in outline; is bigger than 6 mm or ¾ inch, the size of a pencil eraser; appears after age 21.
Source: The Skin Cancer Foundation

Unexpected Spots

Skin cancer can occur even in spots usually not exposed to sunlight. Some areas of the body people may fail to check:

Soles of the feet
Palms of the hands
Fingernails, toenails
Back of the legs
Genital area
Source: American Academy of Dermatology

Skin cancer accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the U.S., with an estimated 3.5 million non-melanoma types diagnosed each year, according to federal data analyzed for a 2010 study in the journal in the journal JAMA Dermatology. Melanoma is rarer, with an estimated 137,900 new cases predicted for this year, nearly 78,000 of them invasive. But its incidence is rapidly increasing, especially in people younger than 30.

While skin cancers such as basal and squamous cell cancers can be disfiguring, they are highly curable. Melanoma is curable if caught early and surgically removed, but can quickly thicken, spread elsewhere in the body and turn lethal. Recurrence of melanoma 10 or more years after treatment is more common than previously thought, occurring in more than 1 in 20 patients, according to a study in July in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

While melanoma can occur in any skin color and in areas such as the soles of the feet where there is little or no sun exposure, all skin cancers are strongly linked to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and increasingly, from tanning beds.

One blistering sunburn at a young age can more than double the chances of melanoma later in life. Pediatric melanomas, though still unusual, are steadily rising. A study in April in the journal Pediatrics found that childhood and adolescent melanoma increased 2% a year from 1973 to 2009, driven by 15- to-19 year-olds, with 18 cases per million.

A version of this article appeared September 3, 2013, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: As Summer Wanes, Push for Skin Checks Is Heating Up. It was
Written by Laura Landro.

What does Melanoma look like?

SkinVision by SkinVision B.V.
An iPhone app to help you monitor suspicious skin

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