No one ever wants to hear the word “cancer” come from their doctor’s mouth. But with proper tools, skin cancer can, in some cases, be prevented, and in others be treated before it becomes a problems.
Do you know the ABCDEs of skin cancer? That’s not a typo – it’s not just the ABCs when it comes to skin cancer: ABCDE is a mnemonic device that can help you remember the warning signs of skin cancer.
A is for Asymmetry
Is your mole symmetrical? If you draw a line through the middle of it, do the two sides look more or less the same? If not – if the two sides do not match – your mole is asymmetrical. If you have an asymmetrical mole, please schedule an appointment with a dermatologist right away.
B is for Border
Does your mole have a clean border? Can you identify the mole versus regular skin? If so, that’s great. But if your mole looks like it is bleeding or leaking into the surrounding skin, that means it does not have a clear border. If you have a mole with a fuzzy border, please schedule an appointment with a dermatologist right away.
C is for Color
What color is your mole? Is it a single brown shade? If so – no problem. But if your mole is a mix of colors, it’s time to see a dermatologist. Your mole might have a variety of shades or brown and tan, it might include black or red or even blue or white. If your mole is any of these odd colors or is multi-colored, please schedule an appointment with a dermatologist right away.
D is for Diameter
How wide is your mole? The longest distance from side to side is your mole’s diameter. The larger the diameter, the bigger the chance your mole is malignant and not benign. Generally, moles larger than the eraser on a pencil should be checked by a dermatologist as soon as possible. However, smaller moles can be malignant, so if there are other signs that your mole may be malignant, don’t ignore it simply because it’s smaller.
E is for Evolving
Evolving – or changing – is a serious sign that something is wrong with a mole. If you notice any changes in a mole, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist immediately. Look for changes in elevation, size, color, and shape, but also be aware that changes in the way a mole feels – for instance, if it begins itching, burning, or hurting, or if it starts bleeding or getting crusty, these are also important changes that means a mole should be examined by a dermatologist right away.
Myths & Truths About Skin Cancer
- It is FALSE that darker skinned people, like people of African descent, cannot get skin cancer. No matter what your natural skin shade is, you can get skin cancer. That being said, blonds and redheads are two- to four-times more likely to get skin cancer than people with darker hair.
- It is TRUE that you are more likely to get skin cancer if your parent, child, or sibling has had skin cancer.
- It is FALSE that only newly appearing moles can be cancerous. In fact, if you have had a large mole since birth, that mole is actually more likely to develop melanoma. Of course, the appearance of any new moles means you should see a dermatologist immediately.
- It is TRUE that sun exposure can increase the chances that you will develop skin cancer. Getting a painful sunburn, even if it doesn’t peel or blister, just once every two years can triple your chances of skin cancer. But don’t let this fool you. Even if you are very caareful about your sun exposure, you can get skin cancer. In fact, skin cancer can even develop in unlikely places like your nail beds and the bottom of your feet.
How Dermatologic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery Can Help
Early detection is the most important tool for avoiding and surviving skin cancer. Therefore, even if you haven’t seen any of the ABCDE warning signs, it is good practice to see a dermatologist regularly. Dermatologists can examine areas of your body that you can’t see, like your back, and keep track of any suspicious looking moles. Regular dermatologist appointments, along with knowing the ABCDEs of skin cancer can go a long way in preventing problematic diagnoses.
Doctors at Dermatologic Cosmetic & Plastic Surgery can remove suspicious or diagnosed moles using a number of different methods. These include scraping, burning, freezing, radiation, excisional surgery, and a highly specialized type of surgery called Mohs micrographic surgery.
Schedule an appointment with one of our doctors today to get a complete skin check. We will discuss with you any troublesome spots we see, how to keep an eye on your skin between appointments, potential treatments, and prevention measures. As with any type of cancer, the best treatment is prevention!