Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US affecting more than 5 million people per year. In fact, 1 in 5 people will eventually have at least one skin cancer. Early detection is key and luckily most skin cancers are treatable with in-office procedures. Melanoma is a deadly form of skin cancer that can affect people of all ages. Fair skin, sun exposure, tanning bed use, family history, or many atypical nevi are all risk factors, but anyone can be affected by melanoma, at any time. Everyone should take a look at their own skin once a month to stay aware of changes. Even better: get nakey and have a friend (with skin check benefits) help you look. When evaluating your moles, think about the ABCDE’s of melnaoma.
A is for asymmetrical shape.
Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking sides.
B is for irregular border.
Look for moles with irregular, notched, jagged, or scalloped borders — characteristics of melanomas.
C is for changes in color.
Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color. New onset red, black, or gray colors are concerning.
D is for diameter.
Look for new growth in a mole larger than 1/4 inch (about 6 millimeters).
E is for evolving.
Look for changes over time, such as a mole that grows in size or that changes color or shape. Moles may also evolve to develop new signs and symptoms, such as new itchiness or bleeding. I also think about the “ugly duckling sign,” in other words, you may have many somewhat atypical looking moles, but if one of them has started to look like “it’s not part of the family” and is not similar to your other moles, it may be time to show your dermatologist.
Looking at your own skin ONCE A MONTH can help you make the most of your dermatology visit and could even SAVE YOUR LIFE! If you have a family history of melanoma or a large number of atypical nevi, your dermatologist may recommend screenings twice per year, but for most people once a year full skin exams are the perfect choice for prevention and early detection.