Melanoma, most commonly referred to as “skin cancer,” is often only a concern to people in the summer months, when the days are longer and many people spend more time outdoors. However, melanoma is a concern year round, in all geographical locations (Not-so-fun fact: research has suggested that 90% of melanoma cases are linked to Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and other, artificial sources like tanning beds). Melanoma is important to detect, as it is the most deadly form of skin cancer, and it is easy to catch in its early stages; you just have to perform a self-exam once a month and know your ABCDEs!
Self-exams are very simple, quick, and generally pretty straight-forward: the first thing that you would be doing is taking stock of any moles that you may have. Take a look at each mole individually and run through this quick check list:
A – Asymmetrical – Are your moles symmetrical? If you drew a line down the middle, would both sides match? If they are asymmetrical, this is a warning sign for melanoma.
B – Border – Moles that are not a concern have smooth borders that look even. Moles that could be a concern have uneven borders, like you may see on a map of land near water.
C – Color – Normally being colorful is a good thing, it describes fun and adventurousness individuals. However, with moles, you want them to all be one color. Multi-colored moles are another warning sign of melanoma.
D – Diameter – How big is your mole? The larger the mole, the more likely is that it is warning you against something bad, like melanoma. The good rule of thumb is if your mole is larger than then end of a pencil, you could may want to have it checked out by a doctor.
E – Evolving – Did your mole change since the last time you checked it out? If moles change in any way, you want to make sure to get them checked out by a medical professional.
These self-exams are really quick! You should do them about once a month: Yes, even in the months that are not filled with water parks and swim suits. Also, be wary of tanning beds and try to make sure that you put on sunscreen when you go outside; remember your ears, as I have had some BAD times when I forgot to put sunscreen on my ears.
So, in observance of this time of year, do a quick self-exam of your moles (Not at the office though!). Try to get in the exam once a month, you could even knock it out in the shower! And if you notice anything that you consider worrisome, please get your skin looked at by a health care professional. It could be nothing, which is always great news, or you could catch melanoma early, before it gets bad…which is ALSO great news.
Here’s to healthy skin!