We all love to spend time playing in the sunshine. However, spending too much time in the sun could put you at risk for skin cancer, even if you use sunscreen. Most types of skin cancer are treatable, as long as they are caught early. It is important to be evaluated by a skin care specialist if you find any unusual marks, bumps, sores, or moles on your skin.
Remember to use sunscreen and/or sun-protective clothing as much as possible, and watch your moles regularly for any suspicious changes. The changes you should look for are known as the ABCDs of skin cancer detection.
- A stands for asymmetry. Normal moles tend to look symmetrical when compared top to bottom and side to side. When moles are asymmetrical a skin care specialist should evaluate them.
B: BORDER IRREGULARITY
- B stands for border irregularity. The borders on normal moles tend to be smooth without notches or “fingers” projecting into the surrounding skin. Moles with notched, jagged, or blurred borders require evaluation by a skin expert.
C: COLOR VARIATION
- C stands for color variation. From mole to mole color may vary from light brown to very dark brown, but within an individual mole, the color should be confluent. Also black, blue, or red colors in moles may signal that the mole is atypical.
D: DIAMETER LARGE
- D stands for diameter. Any mole lager than 6 mm, or larger than a pencil eraser should be evaluated by a skin care specialist.
Aside from the ABCDs, check your skin for growing, bleeding, crusting, or other spots that change size or shape rapidly on your skin. These changes do not necessarily mean skin cancer, but they could be other problems that need to be treated by a skin care specialist.
Where should I look?
- Check the top and bottom of your feet and between your toes, as well as both sides of your hands.
- Look at your face, ears and where your hair parts.
- Examine your chest, neck, front and back of your arms and legs, underarms, back, buttocks, elbows and belly
How often should I check?
It is a good rule of thumb to check yourself when in the shower or by a mirror once a month. A yearly routine check by a specialist trained in the detection of skin cancer is recommended. Remember, early detection is the key to survival when it comes to skin cancer and studies show that early diagnosis by a skin care specialist carries a better prognosis than patient-identified skin cancers.
Who is at risk?
Any person who has spent time in the sun throughout their life is at risk. However, some people are at risk even if they’ve never spent time in the sun. You need to be especially careful to check your skin if you:
- Have light hair and skin
- Freckle and burn easily
- Have a family member who has had skin cancer
- Have blue, green, or gray eyes
- Had one or more blistering sunburns as a child
Be sure to report any ABCD sign to your doctor as soon as possible for inspection. Detecting skin cancer early is the easiest way to cure it. Try to check for the ABCDs every month and report any changes to your doctor immediately.