Sun and fun. Are there any two words that go better together? Unfortunately though, all of that sun comes with a danger. In fact, the incidence of melanoma—the most serious and deadly form of skin cancer—is increasing rapidly. The bottom line? It isn’t just poolside outings or beach bathing that require sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat, every bit of sun exposure increases the potential for serious skin damage.
Over the past few years, the American Cancer Society has predicted one million new cases of skin cancer annually. While everyone is vulnerable, the risk of skin cancer is greater for some than others. Light-skinned individuals, especially those with red or blond hair and blue and gray eyes and those who freckle or burn easily, must be vigilant about sun safety.
Those who work or spend much time outdoors are also at greater risk, as is anyone with 100 or more moles (the more you have, the greater chance one of them will be pre-cancerous). Doctors also warn that suffering three or more severe sunburns as a child
elevates a person’s chances of developing skin cancer,
and smokers or those with suppressed immune systems need to be especially careful.
Lowering your risk of skin cancer rests on two very important steps: avoiding long periods of intense sunlight and practicing sun safety everyday. That means the next time you head out – for a child’s soccer game or a trip to the grocery store – take a moment to slather on the sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher), don a hat and wear protective clothing and sunglasses.
The ABCs of Screening at Home
Even if you are doing all you can to prevent skin cancer, i.e. avoiding the sun from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., applying sunscreen regularly, wearing protective clothing and avoiding tanning beds, it’s still important to do self mole checks at home. So, what to look for? Remember your ABC’s
A: Is it Asymmetric? Healthy moles are symmetrical
B: Does it have a distinct Border? A healthy mole has a very clear distinction between the brown of the mole and the surrounding skin.
C: What Color is your mole? If you have a number of moles and one is a different color, consider it a red flag. Moles are usually light brown. Some moles have no color.
D: How big is the Diameter? Though large moles can be normal, healthy moles are usually the size of a pencil eraser or smaller.
In addition, everyone should have an annual mole screening. Your doctor will check your skin, noting size, color and abnormalities of moles. If one looks suspicious the doctor may ask: Has it changed in size or color? Does it bleed or hurt? Of equal importance are any sores or open areas of skin.