May 31, 2017
Dermatology / Prevention: skin cancerWhen was the last time you looked at you skin?
Dark moles, asymmetric in size and colour, irregular in shape and growing abruptly in a relatively short time, are among the suspicious signs that you should learn to recognise in your skin. These changes may be benign, but can also indicate the presence of malignant melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly type of skin cancer.
Vitor Neto, a dermatologist at Loulé Hospital, stresses the importance of prevention and keeping a close eye on your skin, in the detection of this and other types of skin cancer.
A mole that has developed in the last few months could turn out to be malign. So keeping an eye on marks on your skin is key to early detection of melanoma, the most aggressive and deadly type of skin cancer. That is the advice of Vitor Neto, a dermatologist at Loulé Hospital. "People must be alert to the marks on their skin. A dark mole with uneven colouring, with an irregular shape, that has changed size and colour in just a few months, and which feels like a small lump... could spell melanoma, a cancer whose early diagnosis may mean the difference between a person surviving or not." Skin cancer screenings are therefore fundamental in detecting this kind of cancer, which is often triggered by acute episodes of sunburn.
- Detecting melanoma
- Just as we screen for breast cancer, we should keep an eye on our own skin. Taking photographs of your moles can help to identify changes. Touch is also important to determine whether a mole has acquired the consistency of a lump. "When these moles are bigger they may be going deeper. That may mean the difference between the person surviving or not, because this type of cancer kills," the specialist warns.
- Wounds that look like a "volcano" - spinocellular carcinoma
- You also need to keep an eye on wounds that fail to heal. "Spinocellular carcinomas are small moles that grow over the months, and look like a tiny volcano," explains dermatologist Vitor Neto.
Genetic factors, but also environmental ones such as chronic sun damage accumulated over a lifetime, are very often at the root of this type of cancer, although it can also emerge in parts of the body that have never been exposed to the sun.
- Basal cell carcinoma
- This slow-growing skin cancer is the least aggressive. It tends to appear on the face (nose, ears) and neck - areas that are more expsosed to the sun. Usually grows over the years, assuming different forms, sometimes confused with small wounds, that bleed and then get better but don't full heal. As generally do not give great symptoms, patients drag this tumor, sometimes to appreciable dimensions, hampering its surgical treatment.
- - Check your own skin regularly
- - Protect all skin exposed to the sun with a broad-spectrum sun screen that has a protection factor of at least 30
- - Wear a hat and sunglasses
- - Avoid the high-risk period for exposure (between 11am and 5pm)
- - In case of doubt, consult a dermatologist