Melanoma, unlike it’s more common cousins of basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers, is especially dangerous due to its ability to spread. During your monthly health self-check, make sure you’re paying attention to your skin. Guys, make sure you or your partner are getting a good look at your trunk, as the space between the shoulder blades and the back of the neck are the most common spots for you to develop the deadly spots. Ladies, you’re most likely to get it on the arms and legs. Make sure you’re getting a full inspection each time. Remember, it’s not just about what is exposed to the sun as melanoma can spread through the bloodstream and by the lymph nodes.
Doing this with regularity will increase the likelihood of early detection, which is the best defense against melanoma. As a skin cancer prognosis is often linked to the depth of the disease, early detection is literally life-saving. In addition to your monthly checks, be sure you’re covering up and using sunscreen (don’t forget the back of your neck and ears).
Here’s what you should be looking for:
A – Asymmetry: When looking at the mark or mole, you should be able to mentally cut it in half. If the two halves don’t match up, it’s time get it checked out.
B – Border irregularity: The outside of your mole should not look like a 4-year-old drew it. There should be a pretty well-defined border with distinctive edges. If it looks more like a Rorschach test, go see Dr. Guenthner.
C – Color: Skin tones will often determine was kind of color you should be seeing in your spots. The important thing to remember is that each spot should have a consistent color. If you’re seeing different hues (like one side is pink and the other side is almost black), then that’s a signals to see if something serious is in sight. Most melanomas appear dark in color, but they can be red or pink, too.
D – Diameter: Size does matter. Most moles and freckles are pretty small. This can be helpful in finding out what doesn’t belong. If you’re seeing a mole that is greater than 6 millimeters in diameter (roughly a quarter of an inch across), then it has failed the size test. Make an appointment for an exam.
E – Elevation: If you’re mole or mark grows in width, but especially in height, it may be dangerous. A lot of moles are slightly above the skin, but if you start to notice that it is elevated or that it begins to form a peak you need to have a professional take a look.
Other red flags: Keep an eye on any new spots. Any discoloration on the skin can be indicative of sun damage and thus a candidate. If you start to notice changes to it like any of the above, go get checked. Oozing or bleeding moles are also ways of your skin letting you know that something is wrong.
Now that the brutal heat of summer is over, it’s time to give yourself a once-over and I do mean your skin. A lot of us go around without any kind of protectant and we need to break those bad habits. Cover up and keep an eye out for suspicious spots.