Could it Be Cancer? When to Start Worrying About a Dark Spot
Skin cancer is on the rise. Non-melanoma skin cancers have increased 77% from 1992 to 2006. While there are a variety of theories as to why this surge is occurring, the bottom line is that frequent skin checks are important. However, it can sometimes be difficult to determine if a particular dark spot needs to be checked out. Here are the most important indicators of potential danger to keep in mind when evaluating a spot:
- Asymmetry: If the spot is not round or evenly shaped, this is a warning sign. Benign spots are generally symmetrical in shape, so that oddly-shaped spot warrants further attention.
- Strange Borders: Benign moles have even borders that coincide with their general shape. A spot that has raised borders, unusually edged borders, or sunken borders may indicate cancer.
- Multiple Colors: Cancerous moles tend to be of more than one color. Benign spots can come in a wide range of colors, but if the color is darker or lighter in some areas or is a completely different color altogether, a visit to a doctor is highly advised.
- Large Diameter: If the dark spot is greater in diameter than the size of a pencil eraser, it needs further investigation. Benign lesions occasionally can be larger, but a large, dark spot should watched carefully.
- Changing Shape: If the spot has undergone any recent changes, such as increased growth, burning, itching, bleeding, or crusting, it should be checked out as soon as possible. Skin cancer has the potential to grow very quickly, so any spot that gotten bigger in a relatively short time span needs to be checked by a doctor.
- Fair Skin: In general, the lighter the skin, the more prone it is to skin cancer. People with extremely fair skin should pay close attention to any spots in addition to always wearing sunscreen and protective clothing while outdoors.
- Genetic Predisposition: Like many diseases, the tendency to develop skin cancer can run in families. If previous generations have developed cancerous moles, greater vigilance should be taken in protecting the skin and having suspicious moles checked.
Don’t ignore that unusual spot. Follow all dark spots on the skin by checking them often. Avoid obvious skin cancer hazards, such as tanning beds which, according to Mallory Brewer, a family doctor in Winter Haven, can increase the chance of developing melanoma by 75%. If any of the above criteria are met and a mole is suspicious, make sure to have it evaluated by a professional.