May is Melanoma awareness month. The 1st Monday in May is Melanoma Monday and is the start of the campaign to raise awareness. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer that is far more dangerous than other forms of skin cancer, if not detected and treated in early stages it can spread and infect other organs. Here are somethings to look for:
- The A, B, C, D, E’s
- A – Asymmetry - Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves do not match; it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
- B – Border - Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
- C – Color - Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.
- D – Diameter or Dark - While it’s ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, it’s a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter) or larger. Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.
- E – Evolving - Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
- The Ugly Duckling
- This recognition strategy is based on the concept that most normal moles on your body resemble one another, while melanomas stand out like ugly ducklings in comparison. These ugly duckling lesions or outlier lesions can be larger, smaller, lighter or darker, compared to surrounding moles. Also, isolated lesions without any surrounding moles for comparison are considered ugly ducklings.
- Amelanotic melanomas - are missing the dark pigment melanin that gives most moles their color. These melanomas may be pinkish, reddish, white, the color of your skin or even clear and colorless, making them difficult to recognize.
- The takeaway - Be watchful for any new mole or freckle that arises on your skin, a sore or spot that does not heal, a change in any existing mole (growing, swelling, itching) or any spot, mole or lesion that looks unusual.
There are things you can do reduce your risk:
- Wear sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Reapply sunscreen throughout the day, too.
- Other types of sun protection include wearing a broad-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and pants. And do not forget the back of your neck.
- Find shade. Trees, umbrellas, and awnings provide excellent sun protection on warm sunny days.
- Do not let the clouds fool you! UV rays still reach the Earth and your skin on a cloudy day!
- Avoid tanning beds. The UV light in tanning beds puts you at risk for melanoma, too.
- Regularly check your skin for abnormal moles. If you notice changes, see your dermatologist to have it checked.
It is also important to note that about 20 to 30 percent of melanomas develop in existing moles, while 70 to 80 percent arise on seemingly normal skin. If you notice these warning signs, or anything NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin see a dermatologist promptly.