The three main factors in the progression of skin cancer are your skin type, your age, and the amount of unprotected sun exposure you have experienced. You have no control over your skin type as this is inherited. The older you are the more likely you are to get skin cancer. The only factor that you have control over is the amount of unprotected sun exposure your skin gets.
Here is a video from the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) on the harmful effects of tanning in young women.
What to be aware of:
Actinic keratoses are precancerous lesions that look like dry, scaly, rough, often delicate spots on sun-exposed areas of your skin. They are extremely common and indicate that you have an increased risk of developing a skin cancer. They can likely progress into a skin cancer and are easily treated with liquid nitrogen or periodically with topical creams.
Basal Cell Carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. They are often a local growth on the skin and do not spread. They are treated with local surgery and have a very high cure rate and an excellent prognosis after treatment is completed. There are several varieties of basal cell carcinoma.
The superficial kind of basal cell carcinoma looks like a red scaly patch that may periodically bleed or scab. This type is more common on the trunk.
The nodular type of basal cell carcinoma appears as a red, pearly growth that often will bleed and scab. It may also present as a non-healing wound. This type may occur anywhere, but it is most common on the face.
The pigmented basal cell carcinoma is less common and usually occurs in people who have more pigment in their skin and are less prone to developing a basal cell carcinoma.
The morpheic basal cell carcinoma is the most aggressive type and presents as a firmer almost scar-like growth that may bleed and scab.
Keratoacanthomas are rapidly growing tender nodules that generally resemble a volcano with a central dry plug that appear within a few weeks to a few months. They are treated with local surgery and have an excellent prognosis.
Squamous Cell Carcinomas are less common and usually appear as red nodules that ulcerate and bleed and at times may be fast growing, tender or painful. The prognosis is typically excellent though in certain situations they have the potential to spread beyond the local area.
The warning signs of melanoma are the following:
Asymmetry: Benign moles are symmetrical when divided in half in any direction, and melanomas are asymmetrical when divided in half.
Border Irregularity: Benign moles have a sharp well defined regular border, and melanomas generally will have a jagged, notched, irregular border.
Color Variation: Benign moles are usually 1 or 2 shades of brown; whereas, melanomas usually have multiple shades of brown or red, white, blue, or black within them.
Diameter: Benign moles are usually smaller than pencil eraser or 6 mm, and melanomas are usually larger than a pencil eraser.
Evolving: Benign moles usually do not change and usually do not itch; however, melanomas may itch and have noted changes in size, color, and shape. Any pigmented lesion that exhibits any of these features should be evaluated immediately.
Melanomas also have several types.
The most common is the superficial spreading melanoma which starts flat like a freckle and grows outward horizontally from its edges before it develops any vertical. The nodular melanoma grows faster and deeper and is more aggressive. The lentigo maligna melanoma occurs on sun exposed areas in older patients and is the slowest growing and least aggressive type of melanoma. The rarest type is the acral lentiginous melanoma that occurs on the hands and feet.
The most important factor with melanoma is early diagnosis and surgical removal in order to have a good prognosis. If you have any concern about any lesion or spot you, a family member, or a friend has make sure to get it checked.