On Tuesday we looked at how to be safe in the sun in order to protect your skin from damage caused by harmful UV rays. There is an additional step that dermatologist, including Dr. B, recommends to defend against skin cancer --- skin checks. It is recommended that you check your skin for any moles or suspicious growths once a month, especially if you are at high risk, so that possible skin cancer can be caught early, when it is very treatable with a high cure rate.
The people with a higher risk of skin cancer are those that:
- Are fair/light skinned
- Celtic background
- Have freckles, moles and/or skin that burns easily
- Have a family history of skin cancer or who have personally had skin cancer previously
While these people groups are at a higher risk, anyone can get skin cancer. This is especially important to note because often times people who are not at “high risk” don’t look for or ignore early signs of skin cancer until the cancer is at a much more advanced stage. For example, the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) notes that “the five-year survival rate for African-Americans and Latinos diagnosed with melanoma is lower than Caucasians […] for example, the five-year survival rate for African Americans is a 73% compared to 91% in Caucasians.” Bottom Line? EVERYONE should be checking their skin regularly and seeing their dermatologist if there are any questionable spots. If you are at “high risk,” then you should be closely monitoring your skin. A yearly skin check is recommended.
So, what should you be looking for when you are doing your skin check? And, on that note, how should you even do a skin check?!
As to how to do a skin check, it is pretty simple- grab a mirror and check your skin…ALL of it – not just your arms and legs and places that you typically think of. Skin cancer can also occur in areas that are not exposed to sunlight or areas that we tend to overlook when applying sunscreen! Here is a PDF from the Melanoma Research Foundation that tells you how to do a thorough check.
During your skin check, you are looking for moles, and then applying your ABCDEs! These are:
A – Asymmetry: is the mole symmetrical or is one side different? An asymmetrical mole may be an indication of cancerous tissue.
B – Border Irregularity: Is the border of the mole smooth or is it more scraggly, scalloped or undefined?
C – Color: is the color uniform or are there multiple colors (i.e. brown & red)?
D – Diameter: is the diameter larger than a pencil eraser (6mm)?
E – Evolving: is the mole or skin lesion changing in appearance (size, shape, color) or becoming symptomatic (itching, burns, tenderness) with time?
The AAD has also made a video on how to do a skin check, which may be helpful to you:
Any of these factors point to possible skin cancer. Make a note of any and all moles. The AAD has a great PDF with images of each of the ABCDEs and an area below where you can note any irregularities that you found (Body Mole Map)
If you have a suspicious mole or spot on your skin, call us at 949-831-3057 & make an appointment so that Dr. Beverly can take a look and possibly do a biopsy to determine if it is skin cancer.