Tip/Thought of the Day

Tip of the Day: The ABC(DE)s of skin cancer- here’s what you need to know.

Previously, we reviewed sun safety guidelines; using sunscreen daily with a SPF no lower than 30 and avoiding prolonged sun exposure are the easiest, most effective ways to prevent skin cancer. In this post, we will provide an overview of what skin cancer is, and how to identify the signs of skin cancer.

There is a wide range of skin cancers; the two most common types are squamous and basal cell skin carcinomas and melanoma (skincancer.org). According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is a result of “unrepaired DNA damage to skin cells (most often caused by ultraviolet radiation from sunshine or tanning beds){which} triggers mutations, or genetic defects, that lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors.”

Below are images of skin cancers and pre-cancers:

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

     Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal Cell Carcinoma

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Atypical Moles

Atypical Moles

Melanoma

Melanoma

Actinic Keratosis

Actinic Keratosis (pre-cancer)

It is important to become familiar with your own body and maintain awareness of changes on your skin. All types of skin abnormalities need to be aggressively investigated and treated.

Melanoma is a type of cancer that develops from melanocytes-cells that contain pigment. Melanomas typically occur in the skin, but may rarely occur in the mouth, intestines, or eye. In women, they most commonly occur on the legs, while in men they are most common on the back. Sometimes, they develop from a mole with concerning changes including an increase in size, irregular edges, change in color, itchiness, or skin breakdown. A helpful reminder of what to look for when you do your regular self-check is your ABC(DE)s:

▪    Asymmetry: If you were to draw a line down the center of a mole, one half should mirror the other in shape. In the image below, the mole on the right has taken an irregular shape and is asymmetric.

▪    Borders: Benign moles usually have smooth edges, such as the photo below on the left. In the early stages of melanoma, moles will often have irregular edges, like the photo on the right.

▪    Color: For the most part, a benign mole will have a consistent color. A warning sign is if a mole has a variety of colors. You might see shades of brown, black, red, white, or even blue (skincancer.org).

▪    Diameter: Most benign moles are about the size of a pencil eraser (about .25″), or smaller. Melanomas, on the other hand, are typically larger in size.

▪    Evolving over time: The greatest benefit of doing self-checks of your skin is the advantage of noticing changes over a period of time. Take note of any changes in color, shape, size, and if you have any other symptoms, (i.e. bleeding or itching), seek medical advice (preventcancer.org).

Prevention is key when it comes to skin care and safety. Wear sun protection every day, including hats to cover your scalp, SPF 30 or greater, sunglasses, and seek out shade if you’ll be outside for extended periods of time. The most effective way to find and treat any skin cancer as early as possible is with your regular self checks. Get yearly skin checks by your provider, but also do not hesitate to pursue medical advice if you have any concerns.

-Dr. Courtney

[photo credit to the Skin Cancer Foundation: skincancer.org]

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