It is safe to say that summer is finally here. Bring on the barbecues, parades and long summer nights. And don’t forget about the warm summer sun.
Summer and the sun just go together. While the sun is rejuvenating and a good source of ol’ vitamin D, it can be too much of a good thing. And even those who casually enjoy the sun have become prey to skin cancer, one of the most common cancers.
Experts are worried because skin cancer is usually 100 percent preventable. But with the Jersey Shore GTL craze (gym, tan, laundry), tanning beds on every corner and the popularized tanorexic look, skin cancer is on a very scary rise.
We’ve all heard the skin cancer prevention rules: put on sunscreen, wear a hat, stay out of the sun and reapply. Most people can repeat this ad nauseum. But I want to talk to you about how to spot skin cancer. The first place to look is at your moles and all you need to know is your abc’s.
A: Asymmetry. Take a look at your moles and freckles. Are most of them pretty symmetrical? If so, you are in good shape, pun intended. Any assymetrical moles are worrisome and potentially cancerous.
B: Borders. Irregular borders, often paired with an assymetrical shape, is also concerning. Notice the shape of the border as well as the color. These should be uniform with the rest of the mole or freckle. Any abnormality could be a sign of cancerous cells.
C: Color. Moles and freckles should be one color. Two-toned bumps are a serious cause for concern. Notice the color of your current moles and freckles. If the color starts to change, get worried.
D: Diameter. Check out the size of your moles and freckles. Most should be pretty small. Anything that starts getting close to the size of a no. 2 pencil eraser needs to be check out, STAT.
E: Evolve. Moles and freckles that stay the same are usually fine. However, any mole that starts to change any of the above mentioned criteria are cause for concern. Skin cancer is moving and changing, which means that your moles and freckles will change if cancer is prevalent.
OK, so now you know what to look for. It is a good standard to visit with your dermatologist for a full body check yearly. If you are particularly moley or freckly, you might want to visit your derm at least twice a year. If you have a concerning mole, contact your dermatologist immediately for a check up. He or she will likely give you a full body exam to make sure you don’t have any other spots. The exam will require you to wear a paper gown so the dermatologist can exam every inch of your skin.
In addition to a yearly exam, check yourself monthly to keep tabs on changing moles. Do not forget to check places like behind your ears, in between your toes and hands and on the bottom of your feet. Anything odd warrants a visit to your derm.