Skin Care

The ABCDE's of Skin Cancer

The ABCDE's of Skin Cancer

Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has been onthe rise for several decades. It is currently the 5th most common cancer in males and 7th most common cancer in females. Women aged 18 to 39 are now eight times more likely to be diagnosed with this potentially deadly skin cancer than they were just 40 years ago. It is no question that the rise in skin cancer rates happen to coincide with the growth of indoor tanning. People who tan indoors are 74% more likely to develop melanoma, 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma than non-tanners. Early detection is important with any cancer and self-exams can help you identify skin cancers early, when they can almost always be completely cured. In order to successfully complete a self-exam you need to know what to look for. That is where knowing your ABCDE’s comes in handy.  A simple acronym to keep you on the lookout for anything suspicious on your skin.

A is for Asymmetry

The first step to a self-exam is to look for asymmetric tendencies. A benign mole would be completely symmetrical, or a perfect circle. Meaning you could draw a line through the mole and the bottom half of the mole would match the top half perfectly. If the mole is asymmetrical the top and bottom half would not match and would be a cause for concern. Asymmetrical moles are definitely a warning sign for possible melanoma. Be sure to get into a dermatologist right away.

B is for Border

The next thing to look for when looking over your skin is to check the borders of your moles. A benign mole has smooth even borders. Malignant moles and early melanoma moles tend to be uneven. The borders can be blurred, notched or have jagged edges. Remember that during a self-exam that it is important to look at every mole, every month, as your skin and moles could change from even to uneven or symmetrical to asymmetrical.

C is for Color

Most benign moles are all one color, typically a single shade of brown. Another warning sign to look out for is multiple colors. If a single mole has a variety of colors it would be a mole you would want to have looked at. More than one shade of brown, tan or black could appear yet melanomas can also become red, white or blue. If you notice any changes in color contact your doctor to get it checked out. The sooner the better.

D is for Diameter

If you notice any moles starting to grow in diameter, that can be a warning sign! Typically benign moles have a smaller diameter staying around the size of a pencil eraser, about ¼ inch or 6mm. Malignant melanomas tend to be larger in diameter but can sometimes be smaller when first detected. If you notice any moles or freckles starting to change in size of diameter, get it looked at.

E is for Evolving

This is an important one to remember in that most benign moles look the same over time but be aware of any mole that was once benign and has started to change or evolve. Any change in size, shape, color, elevation or if it develops a new symptom like bleeding, itching or crusting - see a doctor.Now that we covered all of the important observations you should be on the lookout for when doing a self-exam, remember that these self-exams should be done on a regular monthly basis. Early detection saves lives. Although self-exams are the first line of defense, seeing a dermatologist or doctor for a once a year full body scan is always recommended. Sometimes they can spot a suspicious mole that you would have never noticed. When caught early most skin cancers can be completely curable. Be on the lookout for your ABCDE’s for yourself and your loved ones. If you aren’t sure if it could be something cancerous, always have it looked at. Better to be safe than sorry and don’t forget your sunscreen!(Information and facts in this article comes from the Skin Cancer Foundation)

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