Skin Cancer Self-Detection: Know Your ABCs
Posted on 04/03/2014 on behalf of Dr. Kenrick Spence, M.D., F.A.C.S.
By: Jeffrey B. Stricker
Summer is around the corner, and many of us will be spending more time outside enjoying the longer days and warm weather. It's also an excellent time to remind people about the importance of skin cancer prevention and the benefits of early detection. That's why our dermatology and cosmetic surgery practice in Orlando is kicking off an awareness campaign that includes a series of blogs dedicated informing readers about detecting, treating and preventing skin cancer.
Our series also coincides with Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May, which includes "Don't Fry Day" on May 23, the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend.
Early detection is the first topic because it's so critical in successfully treating skin cancer, which is the most diagnosed form of cancer in the U.S. Unfortunately, chances are high that you or a loved one at some point will be diagnosed with a form of skin cancer. If caught early, there's a 98% percent survival rate.
Regular self-exams are the best way to detect skin cancer at its earliest stages. The American Academy of Dermatology is mounting an "ABCDE" campaign as a helpful way to remind people what to check for when they spot a skin growth during self-exams. The letters stand for:
- Asymmetry: Most benign moles and other pigmented spots have a uniform appearance. Asymmetrical growths (where one side looks different than the other) are considered suspicious.
- Border: Moles with a poorly defined border, or one that looks scalloped or irregular, are abnormal.
- Color: A suspicious mole may be shaded tan, brown, or black, or have variations in different areas. White, red, or blue coloring should also be noted.
- Diameter: Melanomas are usually 6 millimeters across -- about the size of a pencil eraser -- but can be smaller.
- Evolving: This refers to one mole that looks different from any others you spot, or it can mean its size, color, or shape is changing.
It can sometimes be difficult to know whether a mole is new or was just overlooked during a previous self-exam. Subtle changes in an existing mole are also hard to notice. An excellent tool to help keep track of skin growths is a body mole map, which can be downloaded on the dermatology academy's website. You can also photograph any spots you are worried about to track their progress. And, of course, don't hesitate to reach out to your dermatologist if your are at all concerned or you see any of the ABCDE signs.