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Protect Yourself:
The ABCDEs of Skin Cancer

Skin Cancer


Dear Audrey,

My girlfriend just told me she has skin cancer and she is encouraging me to do regular skin checks. What are they and what should I be looking for?

The Skin Cancer foundation recommends that you should examine your skin head-to-toe once a month, looking for any suspicious lesions. Self-exams can help you identify potential skin cancers early, when they can almost always be completely cured. Physicians have developed the ABCDEs for early recognition of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. 

To do a self-exam what you need to know is that a normal mole is a small brown spot that’s symmetrical and all one shade that hasn’t changed over the years.  

According to the American Academy of Dermatology here are the ABCDEs of Melanoma:

A = Asymmetry
One half is unlike the other half.

B = Border
An irregular, scalloped or poorly defined border.

C = Color
Is varied from one area to another; has shades of tan, brown or black, or is sometimes white, red, or blue.

D = Diameter
Melanomas are usually greater than 6mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when diagnosed, but they can be smaller.

E = Evolving
A mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.

Consult your dermatologist immediately if any of your moles or pigmented spots show any of the signs above—better to be safe than sorry!  Please note that I am not a doctor and the information above was taken from the American Academy of Dermatology. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you have any questions.

As a reminder, protect yourself from the sun’s rays this summer by following the guidelines below:

  • Generously apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin. Broad-spectrum provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Read my article about the differences between sunscreen and physical sun block here.

  • Re-apply approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and especially after swimming or sweating.

  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

  • Seek the shade! Remember the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

  • Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase your chance of skin cancer.

Here’s to summer and Sunscreen!


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