As a wrap up to skin cancer awareness month, I have been reflecting on the most common questions I’ve heard this past month. Over and over, I hear “what should I look for?” “What does skin cancer look like?” “How do I know if this mole is a skin cancer?”
The first thing I tell my patient is to relax a little. To recognize and diagnosis skin cancer takes specialized training so don’t expect to be able to evaluate suspicious spots and moles as your dermaologist does. However, there are some easy warning signs to look out for. The ABCDEs of melanoma are a great rule of thumb. If you ha
ve a mole that is either Asymmetric, has an irregular Border, multiple or changing Color
s, a Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, or is Evolving (changing), you should have your dermatologist take a look. Melanoma can be a killer, but when caught early the success rate of treatment is very high.
Don’t forget about the most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). These forms, of which over 2 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. annually, do not arise from moles. They are rarely dark in color and can be very subtle to the naked eye. Both BCC and SCC can look like a pimple that won’t go away or an irritated bump that just won’t heal. If you notice an area on your skin that won’t seem to heal and is in an area that is exposed to the sun, be sure to have your dermatologist take a look. Practicing sun safety (be sure to wear sunscreen SPF 30+), performing self skin checks, and visiting a board certified dermatologist annually will keep your skin healthy and skin cancer free.