May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and a great time for a reminder about preventing sun damage! With Spring here and the warm months of Summer ahead, you will probably be spending more and more time outdoors.
Protection from the sun prevents damage to the cells of the epidermis. Over time this sun damage can lead to the production of lines, wrinkles, precancerous lesions and actual skin cancers.
Know your body, so you can recognize changes and possible Melanomas. Full body skin examinations- screening skin for benign or cancerous lesions- are essential for optimum health maintenance. Half of melanomas are first identified by patients themselves. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends an annual full body exam to allow early detection of treatment. An important part of prevention is mole tracking with the ABCDE danger signs: A=asymmetry, B=irregular border, C=irregular color, D=increase in diameter, E=evolution or changes in the mole. A Body Mole Map is available through the American Academy of Dermatology website.
Check your skin several times a year if you have multiple risk factors such as excessive exposure to the sun, tanning bed use, or a history of precancerous skin lesions, cancer or frequent sun burns.
Only about one third of the population performs self-exams for the signs of skin cancer and a significant number of those people are unable to see or recognize suspicious lesions on their own.
Know what to look for
When you are tracking your mole , know what a healthy mole looks like vs. a mole to be concerned about. Here are some pictures for your reference, but a visit to your Dermatologist is important for a thorough evaluation of any areas of concern.
A Heathly, Normal Mole (above)- Most of the population has these somewhere on their bodies. If your mole is symmetrical, uniform in color, smaller than a pencil eraser and hasn’t changed in the last few years-it should not be of any concern.
Atypical Mole-Dysplastic Nevus
Atypical Mole (above)- could become cancerous. These “dysplastic nevi” often have uneven borders and are dark in color. These are not malignant but should be watched carefully.
Actinic Keratosis (above)- could be cancerous. These patches feel scaly and rough and are often found in areas that are frequently exposed to the sun (ears, scalp, shoulders, backs of hands, etc.)
Basal Cell Carcinoma
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) (above)-Cancerous. BCC is the most common of all skin cancers and often appears as a shiny bump, raised pink or red spot or a sore that won’t heal.
Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) (above)- Cancerous. SCC is the second most dangerous type of skin cancer and it is fast growing. These look like scaly patches or warts and may bleed.
Melanoma-(above) Cancerous. Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. These are unevenly shaped with irregular borders and can be multi-colored, though they are often brown or black.
* photos courtesy of the Melanoma Education Foundation, the skin cancer foundation, the Asarch Center for Dermatology and Laser & NYU Medical Center School of Dermatology
Schedule an appointment with Dr. Asarch if you are concerned about your risk of skin cancer by calling 303-761-7797