Save Your Skin

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and knowing your ABCDEs could help save your skin — and your life.

475677505_SummerIt’s that time of year — time to trade in the snow shovel and heavy winter coat for barbecues, hikes and lazy days at the beach. Yes, the the outdoors is beckoning, so get ready to dive into summer. But before you take the plunge, do a little planning to make sure you protect yourself and your skin from one of summer’s most popular yet potentially dangerous offerings — the sun’s rays.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer — affecting one in five Americans in their lifetime. And protecting your skin from UV rays is the most important thing you can do to prevent skin cancer. Patrick Murphy, MD, Plastic Surgeon at Renown Plastic Surgery & Laser Center, recommends applying sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect your skin against both UVA and UVB rays.

It’s important to stay vigilant throughout the year, Dr. Murphy says, not just in the warm months. He suggests taking photos of your concerning moles or areas to note any changes that take place over time. “Self-checks are very important, especially in anyone with a history of skin cancer or atypical lesions, fair-skinned people, or people that receive a lot of sun exposure.”

How can you tell if you have a mole to be concerned about? Follow your ABCDEs.

Knowing the ABCDEs of melanoma can help detect melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, as well as other skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma at an earlier and more treatable stage.

A: Asymmetry
cancerous_vs_non-cancerous_aIf you draw a line through the mole, the two halves will not match.
B: Border
cancerous_vs_non-cancerous_bThe borders of an early melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges of the mole may be scalloped or notched.
C: Color
cancerous_vs_non-cancerous_cHaving a variety of colors is another warning signal. A number of different shades of brown, tan or black could appear. A melanoma may also become red or blue.
D: Diameter
cancerous_vs_non-cancerous_dMelanomas usually are larger in diameter than the size of the eraser on your pencil (1/4 inch or 6 mm), but they may sometimes be smaller when first detected.
E: Evolving
cancerous_vs_non-cancerous_eAny change — in size, shape, color, elevation, or another trait, or any new symptom such as bleeding, itching or crusting — could indicate something to be concerned about and warrant an exam by your doctor.

Questions or concerns? Dr. Murphy recommends regular check-ups throughout the year with a dermatologist or your primary care provider.

 

Photo credits: The Skin Cancer Foundation

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