Skin Cancer: Do You Know Your ABCDE’s?
Every year, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the United States than any other type of cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the time they are 70. With this alarming rate, it is important to know about the types of skin cancer, causes, detection, and prevention.
Types of Skin Cancer
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma. Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and statistics have shown a 53% increase in diagnosis in the past ten years. Close to 9,000 deaths in the United States in 2018 will result from melanoma. However, taking care of your skin throughout your lifetime prevents melanoma. UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds is the main cause of melanoma. It has been found that about 86% of diagnosed melanoma is attributed to sun exposure.
In healthy skin, new skin cells form and push older skin cells toward the surface where it dies and flakes off. However, cancerous cells develop from DNA damage and grow unregulated. Risk factors include skin tone (fair skin is more prone to getting burnt), increased exposure to UV radiation, family history, weakened immune system, and excessive moles.
Protect Your Skin From Cancer
Preventing skin cancer is simple with a few easy steps:
- Avoid sunlight during the peak hours of the day, which is typically 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
- Wear sunscreen year round whenever going outdoors. Use a broad-spectrum physical sunscreen with a SPF 30 or higher, and reapplied every 2 hours. Great examples of physical (zinc or titanium) sunscreens are Elta MD Sunscreens, such as Elta MD UV Aero.
- Wear protective clothing, such as swim shirts or hats, when outdoors.
- Avoid tanning beds and lamps.
ABCDE’s of Skin Cancer
It is also crucial to become familiar with your skin and take notice of any changes or unusual marks. One way to determine if a mole irregular is to use acronym ABCDE: asymmetry, border, color, diameter, and evolution.
- A is for Asymmetry: Moles that may point to melanoma are irregular and not symmetrical in shape.
- B is for Border: Normal moles have well-defined borders. Lesions with irregular borders that are not even or smooth, and hard to define, are indications of cancerous lesions.
- C is for Color: Regular moles usually are one color and shade of brown, though they may also appear tan or black. Irregular moles consist of multiple colors, or have an uneven color distribution. Melanoma can also appear red, white, or blue in color.
- D is for Dimension: These moles are typically larger than 6 millimeters. Benign moles are generally smaller in size.
- E is for Evolution: Moles that grow or evolve rapidly within the period of 3 months or less are a good indication that it is growing unregulated. If the mole changes in size, color, dimension, itch, bleed, or doesn’t heal, contact your dermatologist immediately.
- F is for Familial Lesions: Your body generally create similar looking moles. Therefore, “ugly duckling” lesions that stand out apart from other moles should raise concern.
When skin cancer is caught early, it is highly curable. For any changing or symptomatic lesions, visit a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible. It is also important to get a full skin exam once a year, where your provider will check your skin for any suspicious lesions. Anything that looks concerning will be biopsied and sent for pathology. Be sure to treat your malignant diagnoses immediately.
References: The Skin Cancer Foundation (2019). Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics.