WHAT IS SKIN CANCER?
Skin cancers are cancers that arise from the skin. They are due to the development of abnormal cells that have the ability to invade or spread to other parts of the body. There are three main types of skin cancers: basal-cell skin cancer, squamous-cell skin cancer and melanoma. The first two together along with a number of less common skin cancers are known as nonmelanoma skin cancer
COULD PREGNANCY MAKE SKIN CANCER WORSE?
Researchers suggest that pregnant or recently pregnant women were more likely to have a recurrence of the cancer, and nine times as likely to have the cancer metastasize, or spread to other areas of the body.
WHAT ABOUT PREGNANCY MAKES SKIN CANCER WORSE?
Extra oestrogen the body produces when pregnant somehow helps cancer growth. The weakened immune system of pregnant women makes them more susceptible. Or it may even be that pregnant women don't get diagnosed as quickly.
WHAT WARNING SIGNS?
If you’re pregnant and in the high-risk category, you should do a self-examination monthly during your pregnancy and throughout the year after you have your baby. Look for moles, and if you have them, look for the “ABCDE” signs of melanoma. The ABCDE signs of melanoma are:
- Asymmetry: If you draw an imaginary line down the centre of your mole, both halves should match. If they do not, it’s asymmetrical which is a warning sign for melanoma.
- Border: The borders of a benign mole typically are smooth and even. Irregular borders could indicate melanoma.
- Colour: A variety of colours, even different shades of the same colour, within your mole is a warning signal. A dark black mole is a warning sign as well.
- Diameter: Another cause for concern is if the suspected lesion is greater than 6mm in diameter.
- Elevation: The most important warning sign is if your mole changes size or texture, or begins to bleed.
In pregnant women, these changes can occur naturally because pregnancy induces hormonal skin changes. As a result, many women don’t take these signs seriously because their mother or a friend would tell them the same thing happened to them and it’s normal. But it is not necessarily normal. These warning signs are all concerning. If you had cancer or are at risk of having cancer, please consult your doctor to see if it is really skin cancer.
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
Whatever the underlying cause for the increase, if you're pregnant you should be vigilant about protecting against skin cancer. Guard yourself against harmful UV rays by wearing sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Cover up in long sleeve and pants, and wear a hat and sunglasses. Although it makes sense to take extra care while pregnant, your chance of getting skin cancer is still very low.
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