May is Skin Cancer Awareness and Detection Month and every first Monday of the month is officially Melanoma Monday. Today is the day; “National Skin Self-Examination Day!”
Rhonda Sparks, Founder of UV Skinz, lost her husband to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, in 2001. He was an avid surfer and loved the outdoors, but during his childhood he didn’t realize the damage that the sun could do years later.
A blistering sun burn during childhood increases the risk of melanoma as an adult.
The American Academy of Dermatology wants everyone, no matter of your age or race, to make it a habit of giving yourself yearly self-examinations to safe-guard yourself against skin cancer. Melanoma makes up only 3% of all skin cancers, but is the deadliest. It’s only by early detection and practicing safe sun protection habits that you can protect yourself and family!
- The sun’s ultraviolet rays are strongest during the midday hours (10 a.m.-4 p.m.); exposure at these times should be limited or avoided.
- When outdoors, cover as much skin as possible with a hat that shades the face, neck, and ears, and a long-sleeved shirt and long pants.
- Sunscreen comes in various strengths, graded by the solar protection factor (SPF). It is recommended to use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Also, because of the possible link between severe sunburns in childhood and greatly increased risk of melanoma in later life, children, in particular, should be protected from the sun.
The first melanoma symptoms often are:
- A change in an existing mole, or
- The development of a new, unusual-looking growth on your skin
But melanoma can also occur on otherwise normal-appearing skin. And melanoma can occur in places that aren’t even exposed to the sun! Such as the soles of your feet, palms of your hands and on fingernail beds.
When giving yourself, friends or family members skin-examinations here is what you should look for:
Unusual moles that may indicate melanoma
Characteristics of unusual moles that may indicate melanomas or other skin cancers follow the A-B-C-D-E guide developed by the American Academy of Dermatology:
- A is for asymmetrical shape. Look for moles with irregular shapes, such as two very different-looking halves.
- B is for irregular border. Look for moles with irregular, notched or scalloped borders — the characteristics of melanomas.
- C is for changes in color. Look for growths that have many colors or an uneven distribution of color.
- D is for diameter. Look for new growth in a mole larger than about 1/4 inch (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.
Other suspicious changes in a mole may include:
- Change in texture — for instance, becoming hard or lumpy
- Spreading of pigment from the mole into the surrounding skin
- Oozing or bleeding
If you are concerned about melanoma, see a dermatologist well qualified in their diagnosis and request an exam.