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If You Notice This on Your Body, Have Your Skin Checked

Experts warn us to pay attention to these signs. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Although skin cancer can be avoided by taking preventive measures such as wearing protective clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen, it's still the most common cancer. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, "approximately 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day." Dr. Ronald Tang, Hematologist/Oncologist and Medical Director with Dignity Health Dorothy Leavey Cancer Center in Northridge, CA tells Eat This, Not That! Health, "The skin is the largest organ in your body and irregularities in your skin can be a window into a person's general overall well-being. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and current estimates are 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime per the American Academy of Dermatology. Learning the ABCDEs of skin cancer is important in identifying, treating and preventing skin cancer." In addition, our skin can warn us about other serious health issues like liver and heart failure. Read the signs below to watch and for and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Be Aware of Platelets

Woman removing adhesive plaster from the wound after blood test injection
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Dr. Michael Hirt, a Board Certified Nutrition from Harvard University and Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is with The Center for Integrative Medicine in Tarzana California says, "Platelets are microscopic spheres that contain natural molecules that are necessary for blood clotting and repair. When you get a nasty paper cut that starts bleeding, your blood platelets stick to the edges of the wound and form a spider web of proteins that trap red blood cells to form a clot which acts like a plug to stop the bleeding. Without sufficient platelets, that paper cut would just continue to ooze blood all day. Petechiae are small, pinpoint red marks that typically form in clusters when tiny blood vessels (called capillaries) break under the skin and start bleeding. If you do not have enough platelets to stop the bleeding, this rash can appear anywhere on the body's skin surface, but is most commonly seen in the lower legs. You can differentiate Petechiae from a regular 'rash' because Petechiae don't blanch when you press on them and Petechiae do not itch or hurt. Once you see Petechiae on your skin, your platelet count may be dangerously low and requires an urgent evaluation by a medical professional."

2

Pay Attention to the Color of Your Skin

Jaundice patient with yellowish discoloration of skin in comparison with Normal Skin color.
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Dr. Tang reminds us, "The color of your skin is also important and discoloration can carry clues about the health of other organs. Bronzing of the skin can indicate iron metabolism issues especially in patients with diabetes. Increased iron deposition can lead to liver and heart failure. A yellowing of the skin, also known as jaundice, may signal liver failure or an acute infection in the liver such as hepatitis." 

3

Mole or New Spot on Your Skin

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Dr. Tang says, "If you notice a mole or spot on your skin that has Asymmetry, uneven Borders, dark black or multiple Colors, Diameter more than 6mm or fast Evolving in terms size and shape, immediately go see your doctor for a skin exam. These are early signs of skin cancer and recognizing them can save your life. I have personally witnessed numerous unfortunate individuals brush off early signs of skin cancer and postponing doctor visits due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has caused an uptick in patient's being diagnosed with cancer at a later stage causing increased morbidity and mortality."

4

What Is Skin Cancer Exactly?

dermatologist examining mole on back of male patient in clinic
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Dr. Enrizza P. Factor, a Clinical Dermatologist and researcher with ThankYouSkin explains, "Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells. It generally develops in areas that are exposed to the sun, but it can also form in places that don't normally get sun exposure. The two main categories of skin cancers are defined by the cells involved."

5

Keratinocyte Carcinoma

Woman enjoying the sun in the park
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Dr. Factor says, "The first category is basal and squamous cell skin cancers. These are the most common forms of skin cancer. They're most likely to develop on areas of your body that get the most sun, like your head and neck. They're less likely than other forms of skin cancer to spread and become life-threatening. But if left untreated, they can grow larger and spread to other parts of your body."

6

Melanoma

Woman in her 30s sits by her living room window with a cup of tea and looks out contemplatively. She is a cancer survivor and is wearing a headscarf.
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"The second category of skin cancers is melanoma," says Dr. Factor. "This type of cancer develops from cells that give your skin color. These cells are known as melanocytes. Benign moles formed by melanocytes can become cancerous. They can develop anywhere on your body. In men, these moles are more likely to develop on the chest and back. In women, these moles are more likely to develop on the legs. Most melanomas can be cured if they're identified and treated early. If left untreated, they can spread to other parts of your body and become harder to treat. Melanomas are more likely to spread than basal and squamous cell skin cancers."

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7

Skin Cancer Types

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According to Dr. Factor, "Two main types of skin masses exist, keratinocyte carcinoma and melanoma. However, several other skin lesions are considered part of a larger skin cancer umbrella. Not all of these are skin cancer, but they can become cancerous.

– Actinic keratosis: These red or pink patches of skin are not cancerous, but they're considered a form of precancer. If left untreated, these skin masses may develop into squamous cell carcinoma.

– Basal cell carcinoma: The most common form of skin cancer, basal cell carcinomas account for 90 percent of all cases of skin cancer. They're slow-growing masses that most often show up on the head or neck.

– Squamous cell carcinoma: This type of skin cancer develops in the outer layers of your skin, and it's typically more aggressive than basal cell carcinoma. It may show up as red, scaly lesions on your skin.

– Melanoma: This type of skin cancer is less common, but it's the most dangerous type of skin cancer. In fact, melanoma makes up just one percent of skin cancers, but it causes the majority of skin cancer-related deaths each year. Melanoma forms in the melanocytes, the skin cells that create pigment."

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8

Symptoms of Skin Cancer

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Dr. Factor explains, "Skin cancers aren't all identical, and they may not cause many symptoms. Still, unusual changes to your skin can be a warning sign for the different types of cancer. Being alert for changes to your skin may help you get a diagnosis earlier.

Watch out for symptoms, including:

  • Skin lesions: A new mole, unusual growth, bump, sore, scaly patch, or dark spot develops and doesn't go away.
  • Asymmetry: The two halves of the lesion or mole aren't even or identical.
  • Border: The lesions have ragged, uneven edges.
  • Color: The spot has an unusual color, such as white, pink, black, blue, or red.
  • Diameter: The spot is larger than one-quarter inch, or about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolving: You can detect that the mole is changing size, color, or shape."

RELATED: If You Notice This on Your Body, Have Your Arms Checked

9

Causes of Skin Cancer

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Dr. Factor says, "Both types of skin cancer occur when mutations develop in the DNA of your skin cells. These mutations cause skin cells to grow uncontrollably and form a mass of cancer cells. Basal cell skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or tanning beds. UV rays can damage the DNA inside your skin cells, causing the unusual cell growth. Squamous cell skin cancer is also caused by UV exposure. Squamous cell skin cancer can also develop after long-term exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. It can develop within a burn scar or ulcer, and may also be caused by some types of human papillomavirus (HPV). The cause of melanoma is unclear. Most moles don't turn into melanomas, and researchers aren't sure why some do. Like basal and squamous cell skin cancers, melanoma can be caused by UV rays. But melanomas can develop in parts of your body that aren't typically exposed to sunlight."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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