Friday, May 8, 2015

Skin Cancer ABCs

The title of this post should really be Skin Cancer ABCDs. I recommend you memorize and use the following information to help you determine some preliminary information about questionable moles or spots on your skin. Please remember this: When in doubt, get checked out!

A stands for asymmetry. A circle is symmetrical; it has an evenness to it and is perfect in its round shape. Therefore asymmetry is a circle that isn’t fully and completely whole. One half doesn’t mirror the other half. It is uneven.

B stands for border. The border or outline of the mole has irregularities, either a ragged edge or notched—not smoothe.

C stands for color. Moles and spots on your skin should have an even color to them. If they are two-toned, for instance, having one shade of brown mixed with a darker shade of brown or even black, that is generally not a good sign. Along with differing shades, sometimes there are patches of red, white, or blue present. Color differences within one spot means it’s time to get your mole checked out by a dermatologist—now.

D stands for diameter. In the American Cancer Society’s literature they describe the diameter of anything bigger than a pencil eraser (wider than 6 millimeters or about 1/4-inch) is cause for concern. From my own personal experience, I had a precancerous mole removed that was less than a quarter of the size of a pencil’s eraser. But this mole also had color variation (“C”), so it was biopsied and removed. Size alone is not necessarily a negative, but if a smaller mole has any of the other ABCDs, don’t wait to have it checked out.

Next is a different set of ABCs used by permission from the American Academy of Dermatology. I am including it because it offers just that much more information that can help you remember how important protecting yourself in the sun is.
  • Avoid the sun especially during midday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Block the sun by applying sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor 15 on children 6 months or older.
  • Cover up with long-sleeved shirt, sunglasses, and wide-brim hat if going outdoors.
  • Shade: infants younger than six months need special protection because their skin is so delicate.
  • Infants should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
  • Sunscreens that contain para-aminobenzoic acid (often shortened to PABA on labels) or oxybenzone are not recommended for infants. Sunscreens that contain zinc or titanium oxide are a possibility, but check with your baby’s doctor before using them.

The main thing to remember when it comes to sun exposure and your skin is don’t wait until it’s too late to get checked out by your dermatologist. Skin cancer is preventable and curable if caught early enough.

For more information, see: