Anyone can be at risk of developing skin cancer, the most common type of cancer. Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that accounts for 1% of all skin cancers, but causes the majority of skin cancer deaths.
Regular screenings with your dermatologist can significantly increase your chances of catching melanoma early. Knowing what to look for can also help you detect potential cancer. Below, Maulik Dhandha, MDdermatologist with Dignity Health Woodland Clinic sharing signs you should look out for.
Dr. Dhandha says that about 50% of melanoma cases are self-detected. “It’s best to monitor your skin lesions and see your doctor promptly if you notice any of the signs of melanoma,” says Dr. Dhadha.
During a self-inspection, look for spots or moles that show the ABCDEs of melanoma:
- A is for asymmetry: Half of the spot differs from the other half.
- B is for border: The spot has an irregular or ill-defined border.
- VS is for color: The spot varies in color from area to area.
- D is for diameter: The stain is larger than the size of a pencil eraser.
- E it is to evolve: The spot changes size, shape or color over time.
“A new spot, or a spot that is different from other spots, or a spot that changes, itches, or bleeds should be checked by your dermatologist,” says Dr. Dhandha.
Who is at risk for melanoma?
Anyone can get melanoma, but certain characteristics put people at higher risk, including:
- Having more than 50 to 75 moles
- “Atypical” moles that vary in shape or color, or have moles larger than 6 millimeters in diameter
- People who are immunocompromised or who take medications that can weaken the immune system
- People who burn easily from the sun, especially those with natural blonde or red hair, light eyes, or freckles
- A personal or family history of melanoma
- History of sunburn or use of a tanning bed
Reduce your risk
Taking steps to protect your skin from the sun can significantly reduce your risk of getting melanoma and other types of skin cancer. Dr. Dhandha recommends using an SPF30 sunscreen formula regularly, applying at least a full ounce all over the body 30 minutes before going outside. Also, wearing wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses will protect your head and eyes.
Tanning beds can seriously damage the skin from UVA and UVB rays and should be avoided. Likewise, you should avoid the use of tanning oils when you are in the sun.
How often should you get checked for skin cancer?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that people perform regular skin self-examinations. When a new or changing lesion is noticed, they should see their GP or dermatologist. People with a personal history of skin cancer or at high risk for skin cancer may benefit from annual screenings.
Early detection is key and learning what to look for on your own skin empowers you to seek treatment early on. If you see a mole or patch of skin that has changed in color, shape, or size, contact your doctor immediately. If you have any concerns about the appearance of a skin spot or mole, make an appointment to see your doctor.