Skin Cancer Archive


What's the difference between age spots and sun spots?

People often confuse age spots with sun spots, which can develop into skin cancer. Age spots are flat, but sun spots (known medically as actinic keratoses) often feel rough and scaly. People should seek a doctor's evaluation if they develop sun spots.

Check out your skin

People should do a full-body skin check-up every three to six months to identify abnormalities that may be early signs of skin cancer or other skin problems. Write down the date of the self-exams, record any issues like new or questionable moles, sores, painful or itchy spots, raised or firm bumps, dark flaky patches, and unusual freckles. Include the exact locations of these skin issues and take photos for reference. After six to eight weeks, see a dermatologist if they have not improved, have changed color or size, have become painful, or easily bleed.

Rare and often aggressive, Merkel cell cancer is best caught early

Merkel cell cancer is a rare form of skin cancer that often spreads aggressively to other areas of the body. Here's what to know about it, including who is more likely to get it and how you can take steps to help prevent it.

The bumpy truth

Skin lumps or bumps occur on or just under the skin. Most are harmless. Aside from basal and squamous cell skin cancers, most other skin lumps are epidermal cysts or lipomas. Other growths include cherry angiomas, dermatofibromas, keloids, and very rarely cancerous tumors called sarcomas. People should seek medical attention for any lump appearing near lymph nodes, which sometimes signals cancer. A doctor should also evaluate growths that grow quickly, bleed, look infected, or feel painful. Most skin lumps or bumps don't need treatment.

Screening advice that's not just skin deep

Melanoma kills about 8,000 Americans each year. Most people are at low risk of melanoma and don't need annual skin cancer screenings. People should be screened each year if they have risk factors such as dozens of atypical moles, a family history of melanoma or atypical moles, an earlier skin cancer, certain genetic mutations or predisposition, immune-suppressing therapy after organ transplantation or for inflammatory bowel disease, a history of blistering sunburns, or substantial tanning bed use.

The best sun-protective clothing

Sun-protective clothes are made of materials that shield your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. The most effective fabrics for the job have high thread counts, are tightly woven, and are dark or bright colors (which absorb light). Examples include polyester, nylon, lightweight wool, or canvas. Many clothing manufacturers now use high-tech fabrics for sun-protective garments. Some wick away moisture and dry quickly. Some are embedded with chemicals used in sunscreens (such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide). High-tech fabrics offer at least as much protection as regular densely woven fabrics, and maybe more.

Winning the skin game

As people age, earlier sun damage to the skin, especially on the face and neck, shows up as dry skin, wrinkles, and age spots. While much of this sun damage occurred in the past, people can take steps later to reverse some of it. Adopting a three-step daily skin care routine—washing, moisturizing, and applying sunscreen—is the best way to treat existing skin problems, maintain healthy skin, and protect against future harm.

Fighting the most common skin cancers

The most common non-melanoma skin cancers are basal cell carcinomas and squamous cell carcinomas. They aren’t usually life-threatening, but they can be quite dangerous. They can bleed, hurt, and eat away at skin. If left untreated, they can erode through important structures like the nose, eyes, bones, or muscles. If they become very large, they can spread, and in rare cases cause death. Treatment ranges from scraping out skin cancers with surgical tools to Mohs surgery, a procedure that spares as much healthy skin as possible.

New Harvard tool helps fact-check cancer claims

Scary or misleading claims about things that may cause cancer are so plentiful that it's hard to know which ones to take seriously. A new website developed by experts aims to provide reliable information about whether a particular cancer claim is true.

5 skin spots you shouldn't worry about

Most skin spots are harmless, but it's important to be able to distinguish them from skin cancers and precancers.

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